The 2010 U.S. Census forms began arriving in Marion County homes around March 15. Dalke recommended they be returned by April 1, which has been named “National Census Day,” when the mailed forms will be counted.
After that date, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin sending out workers to track down households that have not responded—and that’s an expensive process.
“I heard recently that it costs $1,000 to get each form that has to be filled out by personal visit,” Dalke said. “That’s an awful lot of money, but I can believe it’s true because they have to spend a lot of time training those people, pay them wages and all the other expenses.
“If you think your taxes are too high, then send in your form, because that will cut down the amount of money the government needs to complete the census process.”
In addition to the disbursements of government grants, an accurate census count affects the state sales-tax disbursement a county receives. It also affects how voting districts are established for elected representatives.
For Hillsboro and many other communities, an accurate population count has a “public relations” component, Dalke said.
“When we’re selling Hillsboro to future businesses, as well as residents, they want to invest in growing communities rather than communities that are shrinking,” she said. “Those outside investments are what help us keep up our (property) values in our community.”
In Hillsboro’s case, Dalke said she believes an accurate count will reveal that the city’s population is growing rather than declining, as the state has estimated over the past several years.
“What the state does is take our (2000 Census) population, then add the births that have given Hillsboro as their residence, and substract the deaths,” she said. “They do nothing to account for people moving in.
“I really and truly believe this is a good time to count the population because right now I don’t know of any empty rentals in Hillsboro, and we really have very few houses on the market,” she said.
“Of course, there are people moving out, but we have a lot more people moving in than moving out. Our nursing homes are pretty well full and Tabor College has grown in enrollment.”
College students are considered residents of the town in which they are enrolled at the time of the census. Students living off campus should have received a form at their residence, and on-campus students will be recorded via a special counter.
“We need to work with the college and encourage them to encourage students to be counted,” she said “They do count.”
Dalke said she knows some people are skeptical of the federal census process.
“I know there’s people who think, ‘I’m not going to fill out anything for the government,’” she said. “But what they’re doing is hurting themselves and the whole community.”
The census form is relatively easy to fill out—10 questions that generally take less than 10 minutes to answer. No additional postage is needed to mail the form back.
“I feel the same way about the other communities in Marion County, not just Hillsboro,” Dalke said. “If you live in Marion or Lost Springs or Goessel, I would ask that people fill those things out because it helps our whole county to have an accurate count.”