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June

Chester County Quality of Life Survey: Findings

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Table of Contents I. Methodology.................................................................................................................................................................2 II. Quality of Life in Chester County...............................................................................................................................4 III. Issue Priorities............................................................................................................................................................5 IV. Use of County Services and Employee Performance..................................................................................................7 V. Government Performance ...........................................................................................................................................9 VI. Dashboard Indicators ...............................................................................................................................................11

 

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I.

Methodology

The Center for Social & Economic Policy Research mailed 12,000 surveys to households in the County of Chester during the weeks of May 27th and June 3rd (because all surveys were mailed to households addressed to “Current Resident” no surveys were returned undeliverable). A spatially-stratified sampling method was used to select which residences would receive an invitation to complete the paper survey by June 12th. Households were provided a pre-paid business reply envelope to respond by US Post or a unique six-digit alphanumeric code to enter their responses online. In total, the County Assessment Office identified a universe of 155,880 residences in the County of Chester (commercial properties and vacant land were excluded). The Center drew a sample of 12,000 households, or 7.7% percent of all residences in the County. The sample was spatially-stratified to ensure that households from all parts of the County had a relatively equal chance of being invited to participate in the Chester County Quality of Life Survey. As of June 27th 2013, 1,125 responses have been collected, which exceeds the target of 1,100 responses. Given the timing of this survey and other considerations and constraints the survey was mailed only once. It should be noted that because the survey was not mailed a second or third time to non-responding households, it was decided to oversample the County by increasing the sample size beyond the threshold necessary for a County of this size. For a point of comparison, national samples of the United States generally aim for a sample size of somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 respondents. In the 2009 survey conducted by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College’s Floyd Institute for Public Policy, the sample error was a modest +/- 2.7 percent. The final calculated sample error for this survey is +/- 2.9, which is nearly equivalent in statistical terms to the previous sample error. Thus, individuals examining the results of the Chester County Quality of Life Survey can be reasonably sure that if the survey were conducted again and completed by households that were not selected to participate in the survey, the results would be within 2 to 3 points of the results presented in this report. This level of confidence is atypical for surveys at the county level, but it is also something that should be commended and speaks to the reliability of the results. This report reflects only those responses from individuals randomly selected to participate in the survey. It should be noted, however, that there is little to no statistical difference between the answers of those who were invited to participate and those that volunteered to complete the quality of life survey.

 

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15%

Southwestern

Southeastern

19%

16%

Northern

18%

West Chester

15%

Eastern

17%

Central

0%

5%

10%

15%

20%

 

Figure 1 Respondents by region

As was the case in the 2009 survey conducted by Franklin & Marshall, respondents were asked to identify where in Chester County they lived by Chester County Planning Commission region. At that time, the range of the percentage of respondents from each region varied from a low of 15 percent to a high of 19 percent. In 2013, the percentage of respondents from each region has remained relatively the same. This is another indicator of both the reliability of the results and provides evidence that it is appropriate to compare results across the two survey administrations.

 

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II.

Quality of Life in Chester County1

In 2013, residents continue to give the County high ratings in terms of it being a positive place to raise a family (95 percent), obtain a good education (92 percent), and to purchase a home (83 percent). For each of these areas, the percentage of residents describing the County as having done and excellent or good job has increased, with obtaining a good education experiencing a nine percent increase over 2009. Despite a suppressed national economy, 70 percent of Chester County residents indicate that the County has done an excellent or good job in creating an environment for opening a business and 62 percent find Chester County to be a positive place to find a job (which is higher than in 2009). 78 percent of residents believe the County is “better” or “about the same” as a place to live when compared to five years ago, which is slightly higher than the 75 percent in 2009. Chester County residents continue to describe open space and scenery (33%) as the best part of living in Chester County, while traffic (30%) and taxes (23%) persist as the least appealing parts of living in Chester County. Excellent

Good

54%  

Place to raise a family

41%  

43%  

Place to obtain a good education

49%  

35%  

Place to purchase a home

48%  

30%  

Place to participate in community affairs

50%  

24%  

Place to retire

46%  

15%  

Place to open a business

55%  

12%  

Place to find a job 0%

50%   20%

40%

60%

80%

100%

Figure 2 Which best describes the kind of job Chester County is doing in the following areas?

                                                                                                                1

 

Numbers in parentheses combine the excellent and good categories.

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III.

Issue Priorities

The Chester County Quality of Life Survey asked respondents about their perception of the importance of 15 issues facing the County. In the chart below, the top ten issues as ranked by the percentage of residents indicating the issue is the most important are illustrated. The top three issues when combining citizen rankings of issues as most important or one of the most important issues facing the County are the provision of quality services while maintaining low taxes (80 percent), maintaining the quality of the County’s water (79 percent) and maintaining high quality emergency services (78 percent). Attracting and retaining businesses (77 percent) has moved up as a priority for County residents from 2009, when only 59 percent of residents ranked it as either the most important or one of the most important priorities for Chester County. Preservation of open space (72 percent) also ranks among the most important issues for County residents, which is consistent with the finding that the County’s open space and scenery are the best parts of living in Chester County.

Most  important  

One  of  the  most  important  

39%  

Providing quality services while maintaining low taxes

37%  

Preservation of open space

Maintaining high quality emergency services

24%  

Attracting and retaining businesses

23%  

Revitalization of urban areas

17%  

Public transportation options

15%  

49%   54%   54%   34%   40%  

13%  

Growth and land development in the county Impact of an aging population

11%  

Recruiting and retaining quality County employees

11%  

 

35%  

30%  

Maintaining the quality of our water

Figure 3 Importance of issues facing the county

41%

0%  

29%   35%   24%   20%  

40%  

60%  

80%  

5  


Very  willing  

Somewhat  Willing   26%  

Emergency services and the 911 system Open space preservation services

24%  

Public library services

23%  

Human Services (Aging, Mental Health/IDD, Children Youth & Family, Drug & Alcohol)

45%   33%   37%  

16%  

Public health services

14%  

County park services

13%  

26%   32%   42%  

11%  

Workforce assistance and job training services Flood & stormwater planning and control services

9%  

Nursing home services

9%  

Land use planning and assistance to municipalities

8%  

Community development and housing services 3%   0%  

30%   40%   33%   29%   25%   20%  

40%  

60%  

Figure 4 Willingness to pay more county taxes for each of the following items

In terms of Citizen willingness to pay more county taxes for particular services, an overwhelming majority (71 percent) of County residents are willing to pay more taxes for emergency services and the 911 system. More than half are also willing to pay more taxes for open space preservation services and activities, public library services, and county park services. Residents are the least willing to pay more taxes for community development and housing services (28 percent) and land use planning and assistance to municipalities (37 percent). Because the list of services provided to County residents in the 2009 survey was different than the one provided in this most recent administration, comparisons are unable to be examined in terms of changes in citizen willingness to pay more taxes.

 

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IV.

Use of County Services and Employee Performance

Chester County residents are frequent users of a number of county services. Consistent with Citizen satisfaction with open space and the beauty of the County, nearly 76 percent of County residents have visited a County park or participated in a recreation program or activity in the past twelve months. Over two-thirds of County residents have used the county library system an average of 14 times in the past twelve months. Much like the respondents from the last survey, nearly 99 percent of residents used at least one of these services. One of the more telling changes between 2009 and 2013 is the change in the percentage of residents who visit or utilize the Chester County website. In 2009 nearly half of the respondents had not visited the website and now in 2013 only 30% indicated they did not visit the County’s website in the past twelve months.

Table 1 How many times, if at all, how you or other household members done the following

Median 6

Mean 13

Zero Uses 24%

6 2 1 1

14 5.5 2.3 1.5

30% 30% 56% 85%

1

1.3

89%

 

County Service Visited a County park or participated in a recreation program or activity offered by the County Used a county library Visited the Chester County Website Visited another County government office for a service Contacted human services (Aging, Mental Health/IDD, Children Youth & Family, Drug & Alcohol) Obtained services at the County Public Health Clinic

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Don't  Know;   4%  

Yes;  44%   No;  52%  

Figure 5 Have you had any in-person or phone contact with an employee of the Chester County Government during the past 12 months

Excellent

Courteousness

Good

61%

Knowledge about your issue

28%

59%

Overall performance

30%

55%

Responsivness and/or follow-up

32%

48%

0%

10%

20%

26%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

Figure 6 Impression of most recent contact with a County employee

  In 2009, only 38 percent of County residents had contact with a County employee in the twelve months preceding the survey compared to 2013 where 44 percent indicated some level of contact with a County employee. In terms of overall

 

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performance, County employees received a higher percentage of excellent or good ratings from residents related to overall performance in 2013 (87 percent) when compared to 2009 (84 percent). In 2013, the percentage of residents rating the level of courteousness of their most recent contact with a County employee jumped from 50 percent to over 89 percent, which is a significant increase. A higher percentage of residents also rated County employee knowledge of their issue higher in 2013 (89 percent) than in 2009 (81 percent). Overall, the percentage of residents rating County employees as excellent across a number of performance areas has increased over the 2009 survey.

V.

Government Performance

Table 2 Importance of each service provided by the County and rating of how well the County has done in providing each service

% Very Important Emergency services and the 911 system Public library services Flood & stormwater planning and control services Open space preservation services County park services Land Use Planning and assistance to municipalities Human Services (Aging, Mental Health/IDD, Children Youth & Family, Drug & Alcohol) Public health services Workforce assistance and job training services Nursing home services Community development and housing services

 

81% 53% 48% 48% 41% 35% 31%

Mean Satisfaction Rating 8.3 8.0 7.0 6.9 7.7 6.4 6.4

31% 25% 22% 15%

6.7 5.9 6.2 5.8

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Excellent

Good

Preventing epidemics or public health hazards

27%

59%

Maintaining County parks

25%

62%

Preserving historic structures and places

19%

Managing the election process

19%

Providing County park programs

19%

Ensuring public safety

19%

Preserving open space

18%

Providing assistance and guidance to individuals and families using Human Services

16%

54%

57%

63%

54%

40%

13%

Helping individuals with mental illnesses

Helping seniors with special needs

67%

27%

10%

Ensuring availability of aordable housing

7%

Managing growth and development

6%

Promoting economic development

6% 0%

50%

35%

52%

43% 20%

40%

60%

80%

Figure 8 What kind of job is the County doing in each of the following areas

 

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VI.

Dashboard Indicators

  2013

2009

95%   92%  

Excellent or good place to raise a family

78%   75%  

Better or same as a place to live compared to five years ago

62%   57%  

Excellent or good place to find a good job

33%   22%  

Open space is best thing about county life

0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

100%

Figure 9 Quality of Life Indicators Comparison 2009 & 2013

2013

2009

61%  

County employee excellent courteousness

50%   59%  

County employee excellent knowledge

48%   55%  

County employee excellent overall performance

44%   48%   40%  

County employee excellent responsivness

0%

20%

40%

60%

Figure 10 County Performance Indicators Comparison 2009 & 2013

 

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Table 3 Top themes: best and worst thing about living in Chester County

% 33% 14% 11% 6%

Best thing about living in Chester County Open space, scenery, rural areas Convenience and proximity to metro areas Parks and recreation Good schools

% 30% 23% 9% 7%

Worst thing about living in Chester County Traffic and roads Taxes Cost of living Public transportation

Table  4  Top  themes:  service  elimination  or  enhancement/addition  

% 63% 3% 3% 3%

 

Services that should be reduced or eliminated None or don’t know Open space preservation Job training and workforce assistance Public health

% 22% 8% 4% 4%

Services that should be enhanced or added Open space preservation and parks Job training and workforce assistance Public health Public transportation

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Chester County Quality of Life Survey