• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

NL to conduct special census

Stand up, be counted

NORTH LIBERTY– The City of North Liberty will move forward with a special population census, even though it will pay twice what was expected.
“The cost came in a little higher than we initially thought,” said City Administrator Ryan Heiar to the city council last Tuesday. “But the return on investment is still very favorable to us.”
The North Liberty City Council unanimously approved an agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct the special population count– typically done once every 10 years– because city officials estimate the population is about 3,500 more than the 13,374 people counted in the 2010 census.
The difference is significant to a growing city: in North Liberty’s case, it’s about $1.4 million worth of difference. That’s because cities and counties in Iowa receive Road Use Tax (RUT) revenues from the state through a formula based on population. Iowa’s RUT revenues come from fuel taxes, motor vehicle registrations and other transportation fees like title and license fees collected from users throughout the state.
Using North Liberty’s current count, the state distributed a little over $1.28 million in RUT revenues to the city in Fiscal Year 2013 for street construction projects, as well as street maintenance, snow removal, traffic safety, street lights and equipment purchases In 2014, the city received $1,335,443 in RUT revenues from the state.
Today, Heiar said North Liberty officials estimate the current population at closer to 16,800, and the new headcount could bring in an extra $280,000 per year, or $1.4 million over five years.
However, the special census will cost $310,091, twice what Heiar expected.
“I still feel very good about where we are at,” Heiar told the council. “We are excited to start and complete this process. It’s going to be very time consuming, but we believe it will be worth the extra work.”
Already anticipating the need for a special census, the council earmarked $160,000 in this year’s budget for those costs. After receiving the Census Bureau’s official estimate, council member Terry Donahue asked how the city would fund the unexpected cost increase.
“It needs to come from general fund; we have strong reserves there,” Heiar replied. “We’ve been conservative in our budgeting in years past, so we should be able to handle the additional expenses.”
The agreement stipulates that North Liberty will furnish office space, salaries and compensation for expenses to the workers hired to conduct the census. Census workers will likely go door-to-door to collect data, said Assistant City Administrator Tracey Mulcahey.
North Liberty will send the U.S. Census Bureau an advance payment of $145,973, and the process will begin approximately three weeks later. The total time needed to conduct the census is six to seven months, but the bureau does not guarantee delivery of the final statistics by a certain date.
“Their best estimate is 18 months from the date of the request for a cost estimate,” said Mulcahey. “We submitted that in July.”
It means North Liberty’s new census would be approved by the federal government by December 2015 or January 2016, and the city would begin to see additional RUT revenues in Fiscal Year 2017, Mulcahey projected.
It puts North Liberty six years ahead of the regular decennial census, but the extra dollars it brings to fund street projects, traffic signals and road maintenance will add up fast in the meantime. Without a special census, the city would wait another eight years for the additional dollars a higher population count will bring.
“If the timeframe is comparable to past decades, we won’t see the 2020 data impact our numbers until 2022, giving us five years on the special census number,” Mulcahey said.
Though the cost is over $310,000, the city will recoup most of that in one year of extra RUT funds based on a new population.
“In two years, it will pay for itself easily,” said Donahue.
Mulcahey noted that North Liberty has conducted mid-term censuses every decade since the 1960s.
“So it’s not like we are doing something new,” she concluded. She also encouraged every resident to participate in the new census process.
“Help the city by being counted,” Mulcahey said. “Every citizen counted helps the city obtain more funds to maintain our existing streets.