Citizen survey results to influence budget priorities

Over 4,000 Clovis residents participated in the city’s latest survey to help identify budget priorities. (Daniel Leon/Clovis Roundup)

The results of the city of Clovis’ online citizen survey are in.

As expected, survey takers ranked public safety as the No. 1 priority, with street repairs and maintenance coming in at a close second. Both essential services provided by the City of Clovis, those were the only two services on a list of nine that were deemed essential or very important by over 90 percent of those surveyed. Citizens surveyed were asked to rate each service—public safety, street repairs, parks/trails, senior services, affordable housing, land use planning, public transportation, recreation, and economic development—on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being essential, 2 being very important, 3 being somewhat important and 4 being not important at all.

Andy Haussler, the city’s community and economic development director, said outreach for the survey both online through social media and via advertisements, was outstanding, reaching 59,500 people, according to online analytics. Of those, 6,000 people engaged through likes, shares and comments, and 4,361 took the survey. Of survey takers, 4,163 responses self-identified as Clovis residents or people who work in Clovis.

Haussler said the response is tremendous. Comparatively, the scientific National Citizen Surveys conducted in 2013, 2015 and 2017 through the International City/County Management Association only reached 2,000 citizens, of whom about 500 responded each time.

Though not scientific, Haussler trusts the recent online survey is not skewed by out-of-towners or large specific groups because the results align with the scientific studies, which asked for a similar ranking.

What differs with this survey aside from the overwhelming response, Haussler said, is that those surveyed were also asked to engage and let the city know in written form their concerns.

Overall, the city received 937 such comments, 101 of which were posted on the city’s Facebook page.

Haussler analyzed each comment and attempted to categorize and summarize the various remarks. Overall, 80 percent of comments relayed one of more of the following sentiments: public safety is extremely important and more staffing and funding is needed; parks are important and more sports fields are needed; planning is a concern and as the city grows, the city should keep its high standards and consider affordable housing; a dog park is needed; more shopping and restaurants are needed; traffic is a concern, specifically the timing of street lights and pothole/street repairs needed; landscape maintenance can be improved; more parking is needed in Old Town Clovis; concerns about another drought and the city’s preparedness with water resources; the need for more youth and homeless services; and there is a need to address the increasing population.

Taking these comments as well as the sheer numbers into consideration, Haussler said the city has been on track in the budgeting of its discretionary funds (those the city has control over), but as staff prepares a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, they are going to look even closer at the needs and desires of citizens.

City Manager Luke Serpa said he is pleased with the larger audience reached with the survey and that the citizen responses will play a role in the budget, which will be brought to the city council for discussion at a workshop April 9.

“The survey showed us not a lot of surprises when it came to what the priorities are,” Serpa said. “The priorities are the priorities. Public safety is No. 1 and street maintenance was No. 2 as the only other one besides public safety with more than 90 percent of survey takers placing it in the essential and very important categories. When we budget, some of the funds are not discretionary. Street funds, for example, all come from the gas tax, but the results of this survey validates where we’ve been putting our discretionary revenue over the last couple of years.”

By the budget workshop April 9, Serpa said staff should have a better idea of how the city is closing out this year and what to expect as far as discretionary revenue for 2018-2019.

“It is going to be tight,” Serpa said. “The discretionary revenue is not growing as fast as we would like. The demand for service is growing faster than revenue but we will be coming back to show council how we can think how this data can be relayed.”