Accurate census count vital for Shelby County’s future, leaders say

Published 7:50 pm Monday, September 28, 2009

A complete and accurate count of Shelby County residents is critical, said Shelby County leaders.

Lindsey Allison, chairperson of the Shelby County Commission, and Randy Fuller, superintendent of Shelby County Schools, said the effort is so important the county has put together the Complete Count Committee, a diverse group made up of representatives of government, education, the media and faith-based and community organizations, have been charged with getting the word out about the importance of an accurate count in the upcoming 2010 census.

The population of Shelby County, as determined by the 2010 Census, will determine a variety of key factors, all critical to the county’s future.

“It’s not only vital in terms of dollars, but in terms of personnel and it sets our representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and impacts state and local redistricting,” Allison said.

Allison said Shelby County has continued its longstanding status as the fastest-growing county in Alabama during the last 10 years. It was also the fastest-growing in the state during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

“Once this is officially documented in the new Census and the new legislative districts are established, Shelby County representation and influence in the state legislature will continue to increase,” she said.

Allison said population numbers from the 2010 Census will be used to determine the appropriation and distribution of about $300 billion in federal funds sent each year to local, state and tribal governments, including Shelby County and the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area.

“What happens to us often is money goes elsewhere because of the socio-economic makeup of our county. We don’t win funds because of need. That makes up more dependent on the Census for dollars,” based on population, she said. “Participation by every county resident in the upcoming census is absolutely vital.”

Fuller agreed.

“Our county population, student population, demographics of our student population has a profound effect on funding from Title I, state funding, funding for our child nutrition program and free and reduced lunches. The list goes on and on,” he said.

Based on projected funding, it is estimated that for every resident that is not counted in the 2010 Census, the area could lose a minimum of $826 per person each year in federal funds over the next decade.

Census information is used to determine funding for programs like Medicaid and other programs for the elderly, highway planning and construction and rehabilitation, family support payments like Women, Infants and Children food grants, unemployment insurance, foster care, job training partnership funds, Head Start funding and many other federally-allocated funding.

Corporations use population and other census data in their market research when determining where and when to local new business enterprises. The more households, rooftops and people the county has, the faster these new businesses will choose to locate in our fastest-growing county, Allison said.

“This is particularly true for fast-growing, affluent communities, and the 2010 Census will reconfirm that Shelby County is also the most affluent county in the state in terms of family, household and per capita income, in addition to being the state’s fastest-growing county,” she said.

Allison reminded Shelby County residents that all answers provided to the U.S. Census Bureau are protected by law and are strictly confidential. No court of law or any agency can access census-related responses, she said. All Census Bureau employees are subject to $250,000 fine and/or a five-year prison term for disclosing any information that could identify a respondent or a household.

Allison and Fuller urged county residents to respond fully to the 2010 Census information request.

“The actual 2010 Census form has been vastly simplified,” Allison said. “It only includes 10 easy-to-answer questions and can be completed in 10 minutes or less.”