Urbana to conduct special census

By K. Lamorris Waller

The city of Urbana will be conducting an early special census this year for an updated population count. The new numbers will help Urbana qualify for additional state funding for its public schools, senior citizen programs, libraries, roads and transportation, which residents use daily.

According to the city’s community development department, certain state funds are distributed based on population statistics. For example, the state-funded grant the Urbana library system receives each year hinges on the change in population every census year, according to Elizabeth Davis, executive assistant of Urbana,

The community development department added that by conducting the special census, Urbana will be able to document any population or housing change from the census in 2000, which could possibly lead to increased state revenue sharing and other benefits.

City Council members feel an early census will benefit community funding because of the growth and expansion that Urbana has had in the last eight years, said Charlie Smyth, Ward 1. The net increase for Urbana, according to the community development department, will be up to $294,000 during a 22-month period between March 2009 and January 2011.

“Although we as a city pay for the special census to take place here, we think the city will benefit financially in the long run of things,” Smyth said. “The only aspect of our community the funding will not cover is (the) MTD bus system because they operate under their own committee.”

Other members said the special census is a step toward getting grants and funding under control earlier than the city’s regular 10-year schedule. Robert Lewis, Ward 3, said funds are based on need, and since Urbana repairs its own roads and buildings, funds will be distributed in Urbana’s social services.

“It is extremely important that we get a proper handle on our grants and city spending as early as possible,” Lewis said. “The federal government is cutting back a little bit with grants so we want to take initiative and make sure we are getting what we need and know where the funds will be going.”

The entire city of Urbana will not be counted, however. According to Davis, only certain areas will be recounted during the special census due to the increase in population and renovation of those areas within the last eight years. Furthermore, a date has not officially been confirmed, but Davis said the census will begin at the end of March.

“Students that live in those areas will also be included, and we want to make sure they are here to be counted,” she said. “Even if there have a permanent address in another city, they will be counted if they have lived in their residence for longer than six months and one day.”