Survey results form part of County’s Strategic Plan review
As part of the formal review of Chester County’s Strategic Plan, the Chester County Commissioners announce the results of a citizen survey, undertaken as part of the review process for the Strategic Plan’s next five years.
Results of the Chester County Quality of Life Survey, conducted by West Chester University’s Center for Social and Economic Policy Research during September, are based on a random sample of 1,256 responses, evenly represented from all areas of Chester County. The results provide a comparison to the citizens’ surveys undertaken in 2009 and 2013, which helped form the basis of the Commissioners’ Strategic Plan goals.
In 2018, residents continue to give Chester County high ratings in terms of it being an excellent or good place to raise a family (94 percent) and nine out of ten (91 percent) rate it as an excellent or good place to obtain a good education. The survey reported a significant increase in those who found the County an “excellent or good” place to find a good job (moving from 62 percent in 2013 to 79 percent in 2018).
The percentage of residents describing Chester County as a better place to live increased from 25 percent in 2013 to 33 percent this year. Open space, scenery and rural areas continue to be noted by respondents as the best thing about life in Chester County, and this year’s survey highlighted “maintenance of water quality” and “providing quality services while maintaining low taxes” as the two most important issues facing Chester County.
“We know that people have a positive impression of Chester County, both as a place to live and with regard to county services, and it is reassuring to see that validated through a survey such as this” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline.
“These survey results help us to gauge where we stand now, and how we have increased the level of satisfaction over the past five years. The responses help us to move forward, refine our strategic plan goals, and dig deeper into what we need to do to improve upon our citizens’ satisfaction over the coming five years.”
When asked about the importance of issues facing Chester County, the top three results stating “most important or one of the most important” were maintaining the quality of water (83 percent), providing quality services while maintaining low taxes (81 percent) and the preservation of open space (77 percent). The issue of growth and land development in the county (55 percent) moved up in importance from the 2013 survey level of 42 percent.
As in the two previous surveys, Emergency Services and the 911 system remain the most important services available to Chester County residents. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents claimed that emergency services and the 911 system are “very important” (up from 81 percent in 2013), and 77 percent confirmed that they would be very willing or somewhat willing to pay more county taxes for emergency services and the 911 system (up from 71 percent in 2013).
In addition to “quality of life” questions, the citizen survey addresses the performance of County employees. Of all residents surveyed in 2018, 38 percent indicated that they had contact with County employees in the past 12 months. Residents who rated employee responsiveness as “excellent” continued to increase – from 40 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2013, to 50 percent in 2018. County employee courteousness was rated as excellent or good by nine out of ten respondents.
Commenting on the performance of County employees, Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said: “We are pleased with the feedback on the professionalism of County employees that all three citizen surveys have revealed. Chester County is committed to not only maintaining, but continually improving upon providing a professional service to our citizens and we undertake training and establish parameters to regularly measure our performance.
“I thank the employees for their continued dedication and am pleased that the survey validates their hard work. You can have the best services and programs available anywhere, but if you don’t have a strong, committed workforce to communicate and deliver them, then the services and programs will not be effective.”
When asked what kind of job the County is doing in specific areas, the 2018 survey noted that 86 percent of respondents believe that the County is doing an excellent or good job at maintaining County parks, followed closely by ensuring public safety (82 percent) and preventing epidemics or public health hazards (81 percent).
Commissioner Terence Farrell noted: “Two of the Commissioners’ key priorities within our Strategic Plan are the safety of our citizens and the health of our citizens. These top responses – regarding our parks, public safety and health – support our efforts to keep our residents safe and healthy, and that is very reassuring.
“Chester County receives many awards and accolades relating to quality of life including education, leisure and tourism, employment and open space. But many of these accolades come from outside the community, often using a matrix of income, levels of education and tax rates. We appreciate the results of this survey because the responses come from people who live here, work here, raise their families here and who use our services. This is the information that we use to form the strategies that will improve Chester County’s services, professionalism and transparency.”
A summary of the Chester County Quality of Life Survey may be viewed on chesco.org.