San Marcos officials hope the city’s participation in the 2010 U.S. Census picks up. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
With millions of dollars in federal funding riding on a high Census turnout, San Marcos and Hays County officials are urging participation. But the campaign has not been as successful as city officials have hoped.
In fact, participation rates in San Marcos are running behind the rates of participation across Texas and the United States.
The United States Census Bureau announced last week that the Census 2010 participation rate for San Marcos was 57 percent. Recent figures from the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) indicated that San Marcos ranked last in participation among 12 capital area cities with populations of 10,000 or more.
The Census Bureau said participation rate in Texas was at 63 percent, compared to 67 percent for the entire U.S. The participation rate for Hays County kept pace with the national rate of 67 percent. Within San Marcos, the Willow Creek neighborhood had the highest participation at 72 percent.
City of San Marcos Community Initiatives Administrator Janice Hendrix said the city’s participation rate is bound to improve.
“We’re picking up steam,” Hendrix said. “And that doesn’t include any of the dorms or nursing homes or shelters or group homes.”
Hendrix, the city staff liaison to San Marcos Complete Count Committee, said the Census Bureau was to begin counting dorms, nursing homes, shelters, and group homes last week.
“So, we have five or six thousand students living on campus — they haven’t even been added into the pot yet,” Hendrix said last week. “And in 2000, our early response rate, we were just at 59 percent. We’re already at (57 percent) and we have seven or eight days to go.”
Though the official end of the Census mail phase was April 17, Hendrix said residents can still mail their forms after that day. Those who mail the forms later than April 17 may encounter Census workers at their doors. If that happens, said Hendrix, the simplest response is for residents to tell the workers that the forms are already in the mail. Census workers will begin going door-to-door on May 1 to households that failed to mail back forms.
City officials are especially hopeful of a high Census count, as a count of less than 50,000 would diminish the city’s federal funding opportunities. One such opportunity, as city officials have stated, would be funds for a transportation system.
The city’s own count, announced as 51,222 by Mayor Susan Narvaiz in her State of the City address last October, is perilously close to the benchmark of 50,000 for increased funding options. Further, local officials are well aware of the possibility of an undercount after the 2000 Census put San Marcos at 34,733 residents.
Census data is used to apportion legislative representation at the federal and state levels, as redistricting is based on that data. The federal government allocates about $400 billion per year to tribal, state and local governments for items such as roads, hospitals, schools, health programs, public housing and economic development.
Hendrix said the Census Bureau is not mailing census forms to post office boxes.
“Probably the simplest thing at this point is to go by the public library and pick up a census form if you have a post office box and didn’t receive one,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix said the Census Bureau will mail a second round of forms to some households.
“That doesn’t indicate that they didn’t get the first form that was mailed in,” Hendrix said. “They have found that even though you’re out the postage expense, it is much cheaper, more cost effective to send another round of forms around than it is to have people that don’t turn the forms back in.”
According to the Census Bureau, sending data-gatherers door-to-door to households that failed to mail back forms costs taxpayers an average of $57 per household. Hendrix said information she received from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the cost for mailing forms out and getting them back is 54 cents per household.
Hendrix said college students are incorrect if they assume their non-resident parents will count them on Census forms. Hendrix said the federal government regards anyone who has lived in San Marcos since April 1 as a resident.
Federal law prohibits the U.S. Census Bureau from sharing information with any individual or government agency, including police, the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Immigration officials, or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Census information that identifies individuals is released after 72 years and sent to the National Archives, where individual records are made public “primarily for genealogical research,” according to a U.S. government fact sheet.
The U.S. Census Bureau has nine Questionnaire Assistance Centers in San Marcos where residents can receive assistance with their Census forms. The centers will be open through Monday. Hours vary at each location.
The city’s Census Questionnaire Assistance Center at the San Marcos Public Library (625 East Hopkins Street) is open Monday from noon to 8:30 p.m. The center at Bowie Elementary School is open Monday from 7:30-9 a.m. and 3-4:30 p.m. The center at Southside Community Center (518 South Guadalupe Street) is open Monday from 1:15-4:15 p.m. The center at the Hays County Health Department (401-A Broadway) is open during Monday business hours, and the center at the LBJ Student Center on the Texas State campus is open Monday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Residents can pick up census forms at the San Marcos CISD Office at 501 South LBJ Drive, and the San Marcos Housing Authority at 701 South LBJ Drive.
The Census Bureau also announced last week that it will mail forms to Post Office boxes if a request is made by April 21. To make such a request, the phone numbers are (866) 872-6868 in English or (866) 928-2010 in Spanish. The same number can be used by people who lost their Census forms and wish for new questionnaires.Email | Print