Upcoming census critical for city, state officials Comments 0 | Recommend 0 December 27, 2009 3:00 PM By Doug Murphy Ahwatukee Foothills News
City officials are quietly sweating out the run-up to April 1.
That’s the official census day, when everyone residing in the country – legal, illegal and passing through – is supposed to be counted.
Results are important for Phoenix and the nation.
“One of the biggest reasons is the financial return to the state for each individual that is counted,” said Mel Hannah, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and member of Phoenix’s Complete Count Committee. “If people aren’t counted there is a loss to the state and city.”
And that loss is a slice of $400 billion a year in federal funding, which could total as much as $15,000 per person over the next decade that won’t be going to the state, or $4,000 that the city of Phoenix will miss out on for every person not counted.
When Arizona is struggling with a $1.6 billion deficit and the city is facing a $100 million shortfall, every cent makes a difference.
“Getting these figures right is really important,” said Tammy Perkins, executive assistant to the Phoenix city manager and is in charge of the city’s effort to make sure everyone is counted.
Census numbers are also used for redistricting. It will be a key element in the redesign of the City Council and legislative districts. In the last census, Arizona got two additional congressional districts.
It could also help when it comes to getting additional police officers for Ahwatukee Foothills or other services that are based upon population.
One drawback to past complete counts has been the dreaded long form that includes dozens of questions, asking how many rooms a house has and if there is hot water, to how long a commute to work a respondent had. This year, Perkins said there are just 10 questions on each resident in a dwelling.
Another hurdle to a complete count has been some people’s reluctance to give the federal government any information, which they fear could be used against them.
“It is not shared with any other federal department or law enforcement agency, it’s only used for statistical gathering purposes,” Hannah said. “People might fear it will be reported to a judge or for child support, but it’s illegal for census date to be used in that personal way.”
People should be seeing the census questionnaires in the mail sometime in early- or mid-March.