Jefferson County residents are satisfied with local shopping opportunities and access to higher education. However, they are less pleased with kindergarten-to-12th-grade education and housing availability.
After conducting 380 telephone interviews in April, Jefferson Community College’s Center for Community Studies released its 13th annual Jefferson County Survey of the Community, a 101-page document compiling residents’ opinions on local trends and characteristics, during an annual meeting Thursday at JCC.
About 100 students were hired to call residents and ask a series of questions related to the economy, health care, education and other quality-of-life indicators. Approximately 35 questions are annual, while 25 others are biannual or new. The state of education, whether dealing with teacher evaluations, consolidation or state aid, was the number one “finding of particular interest,” according to Raymond E. Petersen, director of the Center for Community Studies, and Joel F. LaLone, the center’s research coordinator.
“The highest rate ever said it was getting worse this year and last year,” Mr. Petersen said.
Approximately 19 percent of residents thought education was getting worse. Ten years ago, 8.5 percent of residents thought the system was getting worse. Approximately 28.2 percent said the quality of education is getting better while 37.2 said it stayed the same.
Mr. Petersen said the survey is taken after the state budget is revealed at the beginning of April.
“It’d be great to do a K-to-12 survey on education, but we’re probably not going to unless someone hires us,” Mr. LaLone joked.
In a new question, 52 percent of locals thought the new teacher evaluations would have a positive impact on the quality of education while 18.3 percent said they would have no impact on the quality. On Thursday, the state Assembly passed a bill, 118-17, saying that teacher and building principal evaluations should be disclosed to parents but not to other members of the public. The state Senate previously passed the bill.
In addition, 62.1 percent of people polled said schools should consider consolidation while 27 percent disagreed.
“The 18-to-29 age bracket is more OK with consolidation than the older age brackets,” Mr. Petersen said.
Another major concern that Mr. LaLone identified in the residents’ responses was the number of people with poor access to health care.
“There are startling numbers, “ he said. “The people who don’t have health insurance are not getting regular health care.”
Approximately 88 percent of residents said they have health insurance, and 23.1 percent said access was getting better while 25.3 percent said it was getting worse. About 47 percent perceived access stayed the same from previous years. The data show that while satisfaction has not changed significantly, the demographics show patterns that health care is getting worse for some groups.
Approximately 27 percent of uninsured residents ignored medical care because of cost; 26 percent of uninsured residents ignored medical prescriptions for the same reason.
Other statistics of note:
■ 57.5 percent of residents support the 2 percent property tax cap while 18.8 percent oppose it.
■ 84 percent of county residents perceive that the quality of life has improved or stayed the same.
■ 40 percent indicate housing is getting worse while 28.8 percent thought it is getting better.
There is 4 to 5 percentage point margin of error for the pool of 380 residents. Mr. LaLone said some residents do not agree that the survey should be conducted over the phone because of the growing number of cellphone-only households.
“Our target is to have between 10 to 20 percent of cellphone users,” he said. “Online surveys would be very biased. The average person who uses an online service to survey is the older, affluent white male. The standard telephone methodology, the same one used to poll Obama versus Romney, is the most unbiased methodology we have.”
As part of its Civic Engagement Speaker Series, the Center for Community Services is inviting political pollster John Zogby in September and Bob Deans, associate director of communications for the Natural Resources Defense Council, in October.
For more statistics and to view the entire survey, visit http://184.108.40.206/ccs/ccs_survey.html.