Most residents of Prince William County are satisfied with the county government and their quality of life, according to the results of a recent community survey.
A strong majority of residents in all parts of the county gave the government high marks, saying they were satisfied with the quality of government services and the value they receive for their taxes. However, the survey also revealed that some groups are less satisfied with the government’s performance and that the level of satisfaction on issues such as taxes and transportation has fallen since the last survey, in 2012.
The survey respondents’ ratings were consistently high across the county. More than 90 percent said that the overall quality of county services meets or exceeds their expectations and that county services are efficient and effective. About 86 percent are satisfied with the value they get for their tax dollars. Those results were virtually unchanged since 2012.
About 93 percent of residents said they feel safe in their neighborhoods, and 91 percent said county employees are courteous and helpful — ratings that also remained steady since the last survey.
“The Board of County Supervisors is committed to making Prince William County a community of choice, and to do so, we must find out what we are doing well and what we need to improve upon by listening to our residents,” Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said in a statement. “I am proud of the outstanding service our county staff provides. And the fact that residents feel they can trust their local government and that they are getting good value for their tax dollar is confirmation that this Board is on the right track.”
Residents were somewhat less enthusiastic on transportation issues. Although 80 percent were satisfied with their ability to get around the county by car, only 72 percent thought bus service was adequate.
“Previous surveys have told us that traffic is an issue,” Stewart said. “Therefore, knowing that the state was unable to help us in this area, we committed to building our own roads. We have the largest local road building program in the Commonwealth. And we continue to work on this area to help residents get around more quickly and efficiently.”
The survey report provided insight into the opinions of members of different racial and ethnic groups. It also divided residents into seven regional communities: Hoadly in the central part of the county; Battlefield and Broad Run in the west; Forest Park in the southeast; and Dale, Old Bridge and Belmont in the east.
Although responses to most questions were fairly consistent across all communities and demographic groups, there were some exceptions.
Hispanic residents were about twice as likely as other residents to give low ratings to the police department. About 21 percent disagreed with the statement that the police department treats everyone fairly regardless of race, gender, ethnic or national origin. And 17 percent disagreed that police officers are courteous and helpful to all community members and have positive attitudes and behaviors toward residents.
Residents of Belmont were most likely to feel unsafe in their neighborhoods, and 15 percent said the quality of life does not meet their expectations. About 24 percent of Belmont residents said they do not trust the county to do the right thing, and 25 percent disagreed with the statement that voting at local polling places is quick and easy.
Battlefield residents were the least satisfied with the value they get for their tax dollars, with 20 percent expressing disapproval.
Responses to several questions showed a small but significant decline in satisfaction since 2012. Just 62 percent of residents said that transportation and road systems adequately support development, down from 68 percent in 2012. Residents were also less likely to say they can get around the county easily by car.
About 61 percent of respondents said the county should keep taxes and service levels the same — down from 66 percent in 2012. About 24 percent said they wanted to see taxes and service levels reduced, while 12 percent supported increasing taxes and services.
Satisfaction levels with the county’s management of land use and development fell from 78 percent to 72 percent, and the percentage of residents who said the county does a good job of preserving open space declined by five percentage points. The number who said that voting at local polling places is quick and easy dropped from 96 percent to 88 percent.
The county contracted with ORC International to conduct the survey of more than 1,800 county residents in June and July. Respondents were given the option of completing the survey online or by phone, including land lines and cellphones. The margin of error was 2.3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
Barnes is a freelance writer.