Litchfield Park officials shooting for 100% participation in 2020 Census

Population-based funding makes up quarter of city’s general fund budget

By Kelly O'Sullivan, Independent Newsmedia
Posted 3/2/20

Youth sports, park maintenance, neighborhood improvements, police and fire services. They all cost money, and the more money the city of Litchfield Park receives from its piece of the shared state …

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Litchfield Park officials shooting for 100% participation in 2020 Census

Population-based funding makes up quarter of city’s general fund budget

Posted

Youth sports, park maintenance, neighborhood improvements, police and fire services. They all cost money, and the more money the city of Litchfield Park receives from its piece of the shared state revenue pie as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 10-year population count, the more programs and services it can fund for residents.

Based on the 2010 Census, in which a whopping 98% percent of Litchfield Park residents were counted, the city receives $344 per person, or $1.878 million, in state shared sale tax revenues annually. That’s roughly a quarter of the city’s general fund budget, Assistant City Manager Matthew Williams said March 2 as he and Management Assistant Sonny Culbreth sat down at City Hall to talk about what an accurate count during the upcoming 2020 Census means to Litchfield Park residents.

“It’s going to be interesting to see Arizona now versus 10 years ago, especially the West Valley,” Mr. Williams said.

Results of the 2020 count may change how much money the city receives annually, so it’s critical that everyone be counted, Mr. Williams and Mr. Culbreth said. Counting everyone also is the law. The Census is required by the U.S. Constitution, and it has been conducted every 10 years since 1790, when 650 U.S. marshals carried out the first decennial count.

On Wednesday, March 12, the Census Bureau will begin sending letters to households across the country, inviting residents to report the number of people living in their homes as of April 1, National Census Day, and providing instructions on how to report online, by phone or by mail. 2020 marks the first year residents can answer the questionnaire online.

For the past year, Litchfield Park staff have been working to educate residents on the importance of filling out the census questionnaire and being counted. They’ve promoted the upcoming count at community events, sent out regular reminders via social media, run articles in the city’s quarterly CityLine newsletter, and Mayor Thomas L. Schoaf devoted several minutes to the topic during the State of the City Address in February.

“Our new goal on National Census Day is to tell people, ‘if you haven’t done it, do it now,’” Mr. Culbreth said. Staff will do that by continuing to talk with people at community events and by handing out postcards with how-to instructions. The city also plans to continue its social media outreach and put up banners reminding people to Stand Up and Be Counted.

“I don’t really see why we couldn’t be 100 percent,” said Mr. Culbreth, who oversaw Litchfield Park’s outreach for the 2010 Census and the mid-decade count in 2015.

The 2010 Census recorded Litchfield Park’s population as 5,476. The 2015 mid-decade count recorded the city’s population as 6,152, and in 2019, the population was estimated at 6,809. There were 2,716 housing units in the city in 2010, 2,948 in 2015 and 3,262 by the end of 2019.

Mr. Culbreth predicted Litchfield Park’s population will top 7,000 when final results from the 2020 Census are in.

“At $344 per person, that would be an additional $500,000,” in the city’s general fund budget annually, Mr. Williams said after doing a quick calculation on his phone.

Other Census impacts

The impact of the Census is widespread, including:

  • Congressional representation. A larger population may mean a larger voice in Congress. A fast-growing state like Arizona could pick up another seat in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives based on the 2020 count.
  • States’ share of $675 billion in federal tax revenue distribution. Arizona receives $2,959 per person in federal dollars annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That money funds everything from Medicare and other healthcare programs for children and adults, to Head Start and school lunches, to road, highway and other infrastructure projects. For every Arizonan who isn’t uncounted, the state stands to lose $887 in federal funding, according to azcensus2020.gov, the state’s informational website on the 2020 Census. If just 1% of the state’s population is undercounted, Arizona would lose $62 million annually, for a total loss of $620 million through 2030, the website states.
  • Commerce. Businesses use the data collected to determine where to open new stores, restaurants, factories and offices, where to expand operations, where to recruit employees and which products and services to offer.
  • Real estate. Developers use census data to decide the location and type of housing to build based on population count and community demographics.
  • Grassroots. Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.

2020 Census timeline

The Census Bureau will begin accepting responses online, by phone and by mail March 12, and it will continue to accept responses through Friday, July 31, when the count officially ends. Here’s what people can expect over the next few months, per the Census Bureau:

Thursday, March 12-Tuesday March 24: Letters with detailed instructions on how to respond will be mailed to households with mail delivery. They will be addressed to “Resident,” not by name.

Thursday, March 26-Friday, April 3: Reminder postcards will be sent to those who haven’t responded.

Monday, March 30-Wednesday, April 1: Census workers will conduct a three-day homeless count at shelters, soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at non-sheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.

Wednesday, April 1: Census Day is will be observed nationwide. Every home with mail delivery should have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census by that date. In rural areas without mail delivery, about 5% of the nation’s households, door-to-door delivery began March 16 and will continue through Friday, April 10.

Wednesday, April 8-Thursday, April 16: Reminder letters and paper questionnaires will be mailed to those who haven’t responded.

April: Census-takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, military personnel living in barracks, people living in senior centers and others who live among large groups of people. Census-takers also will begin conducting quality-check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.

Monday, April 20-Monday, April 27: Final reminder postcards will be mailed to those who haven’t responded.

May-July: Census-takers will begin visiting households that haven’t responded to help ensure everyone is counted.

Friday, July 31: Last day of the count.

“Our goal is to have everyone counted way before July 31,” Mr. Culbreth said of Litchfield Park.

Residents can identify census-takers in their neighborhoods by their ID badge, which will include the worker’s name, photo, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. They also will carry a bag and a Census Bureau-issued electronic device, such as a laptop or smartphone, with the official census logo.

If residents have questions about a census-taker’s identity, they can call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative for verification.

The 2020 questions

The 2020 Census questionnaire asks responders to report the number of people living in their household, permanently or temporarily, and whether they rent or own the home. It also asks for the names, ages, dates of birth, genders and race of those living in the household, and whether they are of Hispanic, Latin or Spanish origin.

It does not ask for citizenship status. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2019 it was unconstitutional to include a citizenship question on the Census questionnaire.

Responses to the census are completely confidential. Under title 13 of the U.S. Code, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot share census data with any other person, organization, court, business or government agency.

Both Mr. Culberth and Mr. Williams said they planned to practice what staff has been preaching to residents about the Census, and submit their responses without delay.

“I’m going to go online as soon as I get it,” Mr. Culbreth said of the invite letter.

“Me, too.” Mr. Williams said.

Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at kosullivan@newszap.com or 760-963-1697.

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