Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TOP STORY >> Cities analyze census data as they set plans

Leader staff writer

According to the 2010 census, cities in north Lonoke County have grown, but not as much as some of them had hoped. That means most won’t get as much new money from the state for streets as they expected.

A special census in 2006 showed that Cabot had grown from 15,261 to 22,092. Estimates for 2010 were at least 25,000, but the actual number was 23,775.

But in White County, Beebe estimated its population from the 2010 census lower than the actual count.

Jacksonville lost population and is now smaller than Sherwood.

Cabot jumped 55 percent, Ward moved up 60 percent and Austin more than tripled its population. Beebe is up almost 50 percent, while Lonoke is down slightly at 4,245.

Sherwood gained more than 3,000 people when it annexed Gravel Ridge two years ago.

Jacksonville’s 2010 count of 28,364 is less than it had in 2000 (29,916) and less than its 1990 population of 29,101.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said Friday when he first saw the new total that he believed it was wrong. But by Saturday morning, when he met with the city council to talk about plans for the year, he said he had compared the census count to the number of new water meters and the increase of almost 1,700 was probably correct.

The 2011 Cabot city budget does not include the additional $63 per person that the city will collect for its newer residents, but that doesn’t mean city officials weren’t looking forward to the added revenue for streets which is where most of the new money must be used.

“We need to be very guarded and watchful over our expenditures for the next year,” Cypert said.

Beebe was disappointed with the 2000 census that set the population at 4,930. Mayor Mike Robertson said a year ago that he wouldn’t be surprised if that number grew by 2,000. But the new population signs will read 7,315, which is an increase of 2,385.

Mayor Bernie Chamberlain in Austin was cautious with her estimate a year ago when the census began, saying she expected it to show that her city had grown from 605 to between 2,000 and 2,500. The actual count is 2,038.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke said a year ago that estimates for his city were as much as 5,000. And although the census showed a 60 percent increase in population from 2,580 in 2000 to 4,067 in 2010, the estimate was off by almost 1,000.

Brooke said Tuesday that the city attorney is already working on a request to have the Census Bureau review the count. It is possible, he said, that census workers missed three subdivisions because it may not have been clear at the time that they were inside city limits.

Overall, Jacksonville’s population fell about 5 percent over the past 10 years.

Sherwood’s new count is 29,523, up about 8,000 from its 2000 population count of 21,511, a gain of about 35 percent.

Each person a city counts is worth about $1,000 to $1,500 times 10 years, according to census officials.

For Jacksonville that means a 10-year loss of more than $15 million. On the other hand, Sherwood will see federal funding increase about $80 million over the next decade.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher wants to appeal the census figures.