Leader Blues

Thursday, July 27, 2006

TOP STORY>>Cabot ready to start census

IN SHORT: To get more turnback money, after a year’s delay city pays for a special count, which is expected to show population gain of 5,000 .

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Lack of funds caused a year-long delay in a special census that is expected to show Cabot’s population has grown by about 5,000 since 2000, but Tuesday the city sent a $165,550 check to the U.S. Census Bureau that will get the process started within a month.

The delay means the city won’t get an estimated $200,000 in extra revenue this year as the 2006 budget said, but the additional state turnback funds should start coming in sometime after the census is completed in about six months. The first full year’s collection in 2008 should be at least $305,000.

Cabot has gained several thousand residents with each census in recent years. In 1990, the population was 8,319. Ten years later, it had climbed to 15,261. Metroplan projections place the population now at 19,600, but city leaders believe the actual number is closer to 21,000.

Karen Davis, Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh’s director of operations, said Tuesday mor-ning that the check she was mailing later in the day was only part of the estimated cost of the special census.

The council has approved paying $276,546. Of that amount, $165,550 goes to the U.S Census Bureau, but the city keeps $110,996 to pay workers who will be hired to actually go door to door getting information and counting residents.

The entire process should take six or seven months from the time the Census Bureau receives the city’s money, Davis said.

Three months of that time will be spent planning for the census. Collecting data will take one month, and processing the data and certifying the results will take another two or three months. That places completion of the census sometime in February of March, she said. But exactly when the new revenue can be collected is not known.

The city council approved paying for the special census during the July council meeting. Alder-man Eddie Cook was concerned that the cost might be more than the $276,546 they approved because the cost is based on the number of people counted. At about $14 per person, the cost to the city would be almost $20,000 more if the actual population turns out to be about 21,000 instead of the 19,600 used to calculate the cost.

Davis said the special census will be overseen by supervisors with the Census Bureau. The workers will be hired locally, but right now the city isn’t taking applications. That will likely come later, she said, after the city has received more information about how to proceed. A misunderstanding about how much money was in the city’s general fund was partly responsible for unrealistic expectations about when the census could be conducted.

The council voted in favor of the special census in 2005. But the funds to pay for it were not available at that time. The city could not borrow the money to pay for the census, because state law only allows cities to borrow money to pay for equipment. So the city borrowed from local banks to pay for equipment for the police and street departments and planned to use money from the general fund that would have paid for the equipment to pay for the census instead.

According to the 2006 budget passed in December 2005, the general fund had a carryover of about $850,000. But as it was recently revealed, the actual cash that could be used to cover city expenses was half that amount. The confusion was caused by the accrual accounting system the city uses now which includes other assets other than cash.

By the time the city could pay for the census, the cost had increased $50,000.

Most of the details of the process are still unclear, she said. However, other details are still unknown, she said.