Attention all Douglas County taxing authorities – of the more than 1,000 Douglas County residents who participated in the County’s 2023 Citizen Survey, 33% of those polled strongly agree that their tax burden is rising too fast, almost double the findings on the same question from the 2021 survey.
“This is a very significant change, getting close to the 40% threshold we associate with ‘tax revolt,’ and a message for all taxing districts in the County to ponder,” said David Hill, Ph.D., Hill Research Associates, and Research Director on this survey conducted March 5-13 countywide.
Douglas County Government represents an average of approximately 20% of the property taxes assessed in the County.
The survey also sought quantifiable data on community opinion on several issues, including public prioritization for an ‘adequate water supply that meets the long-term needs of county residents,’ about which 73% of respondents ranked a high priority.
To the agree/disagree water question, “Douglas County should centrally coordinate many water issues now administered by multiple water districts,” 78% agreed with that statement.
“This finding reflects a larger sense of, ‘I may not know exactly how this works, but common sense tells me you all need to work together to solve this very high-priority problem,’” Hill said.
In terms of County attributes, once again the leading descriptions are that Douglas County is a “good place to raise a family” and “a safe place to live and work,” sentiments shared by 93% and 94%, respectively, of those polled.
The other widely shared traits include:
- Property values stronger than most: 88%
- Friendly place: 83%
- Safeguards local environment: 79%
- Good place to start a business: 76%
Once again in 2023 survey findings demonstrate stability in public satisfaction with County services.
Highest levels of satisfaction were recorded for:
- Parks and trails: 92%
- Motor vehicle registration: 88%
- Sheriff’s office: 88%
- Elections management: 82%
- Open space/land conservation: 76%
- Snow plowing: 69%
None of the County services tested received less than 60% satisfaction ratings.
Despite these sterling numbers, the survey revealed a continued weakening in perceptions that Douglas County:
- Is a good place to retire
- Has good County government
- Has an effective, adequate transportation plan
“These perceptions have been waning over three or four consecutive surveys, an indication that these are not just a one-year phenomena and may combine to explain the growing sense that ‘things in the county are on the wrong track,’ a perspective now shared by a narrow plurality of residents,” Hill said.
“Currently, 49% choose ‘wrong track’ versus 48% ‘right direction.’ This is the lowest ‘right direction’ reading our firm has recorded in Douglas County in more than two decades,” said Hill.
“Similarly, we have seen slowly declining perceptions over time that Douglas County is open and transparent (now 56%), listens (54%), spends wisely (50%), plans well (49%),” Hill said.
For the second time since conducting the survey over the past nearly two decades, Hill noted that partisanship was “pervasive and a driving force behind opinions with sharp breaks in many results along party lines.”
This is particularly evident on questions regarding the ‘direction of Douglas County;’ ‘Douglas County has good government;’ and Douglas County listens to the people’s voice’ question. Hill attributed this pattern to increased partisan rifts stemming from the divisive national politics.
“Our Board is united in our belief that quantifiable, representative public opinion is a valuable resource in guiding the Board’s funding and policy decisions,” said Douglas County Commissioner and Board Chair, Abe Laydon on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners. We want the residents of Douglas County to know that we hear you loud and clear and that via this survey the taxpayer voice is at the policy table with us. We are grateful for all the individuals throughout the County who participated in this survey,” Laydon said.
Additional information on survey methodology, resident outreach, and engagement details can be found on the County’s website.