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Counting heads may mean counting money

More money and voice in local government could be direct results from your finished Census form.

"Nationally, for each 1 percent that don't file, the Census spends $80-$90 million tracking them down," said Mike Doherty, Clallam County commissioner for District 3.

"For each person counted, it's worth about $1,400 to the local taxing district. It pays to chase those folks down."

Every 10 years, the Census counts the country's population because:

_ It's required by the Constitution

_ It determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives

_ It's used to redraw legislative districts

_ It determines distribution of more than $400 billion in federal funds each year

Doherty said the Census Bureau expects 65-70 percent of Americans to fill out the forms.

As of March 30, the mail participation rate nationally was 46 percent.



Effects on Clallam County

Doherty said Michigan might lose two congressional districts and Washington might receive one of those because of its increased population.

"There's some talk about Washington receiving an additional congressional district, but the major growth is north of Seattle or Kitsap County, so I don't think we'd be included," said Steve Tharinger, Clallam County Commissioner for District 1.

Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand said that after Census numbers are received, a redistricting committee looks at the county commissioner districts' populations and redraws them so there is no more than a 5-percent population difference between them.

"Sequim continues to

grow, so Port Angeles and Forks' districts continue to move east," she said.

"Then schools and fire districts need to look at it and realign, as well as the Port of Port Angeles and hospital."

The committee also makes sure the county's 95 precincts don't overlap, she said.



Intrusion

A new Zogby Interactive poll suggests that almost half of Americans express doubt about data confidentiality and/or whether the results of the Census will benefit their community.

"People might have this idea that it's intrusive. That's not the case," Tharinger said.

"Basically, it's counting heads - some age information and numbers in the household."

Tharinger also has heard people express concern about Homeland Security.

"Some might be concerned about legal status, but it's more of a commerce, labor, education, and health and human services thing."

More than 140,000 U.S. Census workers are gathering information about every person living at each address in the country, including name, age, gender, race and other data.

Census workers wear official badges, carry canvas Census bags and a confidentiality notice when going door-to-door verifying address information. They've taken oaths to protect the confidentiality of Census responses.

The government advises that homeowners ask workers to show their I.D. and badge before answering questions, but not to invite them inside.



Do not:

_ Give Social Security numbers

_ Give credit/bankcard numbers

_ Give donations

_ Click/reply to census e-mails; the U.S. Census does not use e-mail.

It's not required to answer questions about income/salary range.

Census workers also may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home.

They will make up to six visits to a previous residence to be certain no one is missed.



Potential beneficiaries

Census information could prove useful to businesses and nonprofits.

Sequim schools superintendent Bill Bentley said he met with Census representatives earlier in the year.

"They said having an accurate count of the demographics of the community makes us more eligible for future grants that might become available," he said.

Some grants request demographic information about Sequim, he said.

"If they are looking for some grant specific information, it could make us more of a viable candidate in some grants," Bentley said.

The district doesn't use the Census to project enrollment, however.

Demographic information from the Census also is important at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce's Visitor Information Center.

Chamber executive director Vickie Maples said population numbers and demographics matter to many people who are considering moving here. They request the median income and age, too, she said.



Resources

Questionnaire Assistance Centers throughout Washington are open through April 19.

The Census staffed more than 30,000 Questionnaire Assistance Centers around the nation where people can get help with their forms in a variety of languages.

Daily updates on the national return rate and local center locations can be found at www.2010census.gov.

More information is at www.factfinder.census.gov, www.census.gov or by calling 866-872-6868.



Census data is used to:

_ Draw federal, state and local legislative districts

_ Distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds and more in state funds

_ Plan future government services

_ Plan budgets for government at all levels

_ Publish economic and statistical reports about the U.S. and its people

_ Forecast housing needs for all segments of population





Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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