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Town of Sudbury Gets More Representative Feedback to Guide ARPA Spending

Town of Sudbury

Sudbury, MA

The town of Sudbury wanted to understand the needs and priorities of the entire community, not just the self-selected and self-interested who typically dominate budget conversations. With the help of 814 responses to a scientific survey, the town identified a roadmap with specific targets for ARPA spending.

Topics Covered


General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2022

Problem Addressed

The Town of Sudbury wanted to gather true community feedback on ARPA spending priorities so the funds could be used accordingly.

With most local governments receiving a piece of the $1.6 Trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), towns, cities, and counties want to find ways to spend that money in an impactful way.

The Town of Sudbury, MA (pop. 18,000) was no different. They wanted to use the $5.9 million in funds to benefit everyone, and so needed to understand the needs and priorities of the entire community and not just the self-selected voices who typically dominated budget conversations. When budget issues are discussed at meetings or surveyed online, they attract participants with specific interests that can make the feedback highly unrepresentative of the broader community. Sudbury needed a way to get true community feedback on ARPA spending priorities that represented all residents.

Solutions Used

Using resident input from a scientific survey, Sudbury identified community priorities for ARPA funds.

A FlashVote survey was created and launched in October 2021 to learn more about overall community priorities and how Sudbury residents would like to see ARPA funds used.

The survey was concisely designed to take about one minute but provide all the data needed for officials. In a 48 hour period, 815 residents responded to the survey from the email, text, and voice options that were most convenient for them. Then the results were calculated and shared automatically to build trust and create common knowledge.

ARPA funds can be spent in five categories: supporting public health response, addressing negative economic impacts due to COVID, replacing public sector revenue loss, premium pay for essential workers, and upgrading water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.

When it came to resident priorities, the top three actions supported by the community were addressing COVID-19 economic impacts, supporting public health, and investing in water, sewer, and broadband.

Because FlashVote scientific surveys can be filtered by standard variables such as Locals Only, Owner/Non-owner, Residency, Age, Gender and Voter precincts, Sudbury officials received additional insights into community sentiments. When it came to priorities sectioned by age, residents between 31-45 and those 46-60 both strongly supported addressing COVID-19 economic effects, but residents between 46-60 supported replacing lost government revenue almost 2 to 1 compared to residents 31-45. Despite differences among the various age groups, it was easy to see which top three priorities - supporting public health, addressing COVID-19 economic effects, investing in water/sewer/broadband - were identified by residents as most worthy of funding.

With the data provided by the FlashVote scientific survey, Sudbury had a roadmap to prioritize the spending of their ARPA aid and the confidence to carry it out knowing the community supported the planned actions.



The town received input from a scientific sample of 814 residents identifying resident priorities for ARPA spending


Knowing the community support for different projects, Sudbury can implement these same projects with confidence they will be valued


Officials in Sudbury can use the survey response filters to ensure equitable treatment of different age groups, voter precincts, and owners vs renters among other subgroups.

Who Should Consider

Towns, cities, or counties looking for an affordable, scientific way to understand the needs and priorities of the entire community, not just those who typically dominate the conversation.

Last Updated

Mar 23rd, 2022
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