WINCHESTER — Shawnee Supervisor Shannon Trout and Opequon Supervisor Bob Wells are the only members of the Frederick County Board of Supervisors who want to survey county residents to gauge their budget priorities.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, Trout and Wells voted in favor of conducting a survey on county spending, but supervisors J. Douglas McCarthy, Blaine Dunn, Judith McCann-Slaughter, Gary Lofton and Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. voted against it.
Trout has repeatedly pointed out that the supervisors don’t hold a public hearing on the county’s proposed budget until fairly late in the process. This year, a hearing was held on March 27, two weeks before the supervisors adopted a $463.5 million budget.
She maintains more time is needed to react to citizen comments and concerns.
In April, Trout suggested doing a survey, saying it would provide additional feedback. She got the idea from a Virginia Association of Counties Conference and learned that a similar survey was used “very effectively” in King and Queen County. Her suggestion was met with little support.
In June, county staff sent the supervisors a memo about the proposed survey, seeking feedback. The memo said various methods could be used to conduct a survey. The memo sought direction from the board so that staff could provide a cost estimate, timeline and proposed survey content.
Trout wanted the results by September so that supervisors could use the information as they begin the budget process. At Wednesday’s meeting, she made a motion to direct staff to create a community survey, but the motion failed.
Dunn told her he would prefer to have town hall meetings, which allow for in-depth comments. Trout said she was not opposed to town hall meetings but would also like a survey to get feedback from those who can’t attend meetings.
Lofton said, based on his experience, most surveys don’t get enough responses to be statistically significant. He believed the results would be skewed.
Trout said after the meeting that many constituents have expressed to her that they are unable to attend the meetings because of work, childcare issues or time constraints.
“I think that we are missing a large portion of our constituents who are unable to participate in the traditional way,” Trout said. “To be frank, our board is extremely, extremely outdated.”
She said the county’s population is changing and growing and supervisors need to be accepting of new ideas and reaching out to citizens in new ways.
Trout said voters should remember that several seats on the Board of Supervisors are up for election on Nov. 5. DeHaven, McCarthy and Wells are seeking re-election. Lofton’s seat is up for election but he is not seeking another term.