Sunday, June 20

2020 Census: For Mahomet, Savoy, Champaign, dollars on the line | Politics


When the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population counts next spring, Mahomet’s village administrator expects to see what he already knows.

“I think it will continue to show that Mahomet is a growing community in the state where most areas of the state are losing population,” Patrick Brown said. “We continue to be an area that is growing population every year.”

Savoy Village President Joan Dykstra has the same expectations.

Dykstra is waiting to see what the numbers will show but says “we know we have gained population.”

Neither Brown nor Dykstra look for their villages to reach the 10,000 population mark in the 2020 Census.

But they do expect to see their populations — both in the 8,000 range since each undertook a special census in 2016 — to at least hit 9,000.

What’s at stake in 2020 Census counts: For Illinois, which has been steadily losing population, that may result in less federal funding and a reduction in seats in the U.S. House.

For local communities such as Savoy and Mahomet, it’s largely about the money.

Communities share in hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding and shared state funding for vital services based on their populations.

Each person counted or left uncounted in Illinois is a gain or loss of $1,400 per year, according to Gabe Lewis, a planner with the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.

That figure comes from research by the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, he said. In a report in April, the institute said more than 300 federal spending programs use data derived from the census every 10 years to guide the geographic distribution of money to states, counties, cities and households.

As many as 40,000 Champaign County residents weren’t counted in the 2010 Census; based on that $1,400-per- person figure, that cost the county a total of $560 million over 10 years, according to Tina Ansong, an associate planner for the city of Champaign.

Champaign officials expect to see a population gain for the city in the 2020 Census, she said, but the ongoing pandemic may well have an impact on the numbers.

One large pandemic-related unknown is how many University of Illinois students — who should be counted where they live when classes are in session — were mistakenly counted in their hometowns while they waited for campus to reopen.

Lewis said the UI submitted counts for students living in dorms, private certified housing and Greek houses. But students living in off-campus apartments and houses were expected to fill out the census forms themselves, he said.

The good news is that students who were incorrectly counted in other communities could still be added later in Champaign County if they submit revised forms, he said.

Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen said it’s clear the pandemic has had an effect on the census based on the lower self-response rate the city had — 64.9 percent, compared with 70.7 percent for the 2010 Census.

Champaign could possibly undertake a special census if its new population count is lower than city officials think it should be, Feinen said.

“That gives us the opportunity between now and the next census to make the case that our numbers are higher,” she said. “That may be an option that we will have to have, because clearly the pandemic has had an impact on people’s responses.”

Champaign Finance Director Kay Nees said the city’s share of funding sources received on a per-capita basis would be about $179 per person counted. If Champaign’s population rose by 1,000, she said, that could mean about $180,000 in additional funding.

While Mahomet doesn’t qualify for some of the large federal funding sources, Brown is projecting $150 to $180 per person from largely state-shared revenue sources such as income and motor-fuel taxes for the village. So an additional 600 people, for example, would give Mahomet $90,000 more, he said.

Mahomet continues to budget conservatively, Brown said, but some of the additional money could be used to pay for road maintenance projects that have been waiting.

Dykstra said Savoy may need to undertake another special census after the pandemic settles down to determine its true population.

“It’s been an uncertain time, so I’m not sure we can trust the numbers that will come out,” she said.



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