Preliminary results of the mid-decade census have sparked financial concerns among booming East Valley communities that had anticipated big gains.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s figures are important because they dictate how much of the state’s revenue from sales and vehicle license taxes each municipality gets. Population also limits how much a community can spend on public programs for those residents, from police and fire to parks and libraries.
Several East Valley communities plan to ask the Census Bureau for a review of figures released this week to the Maricopa Association of Governments. Countywide results came in as much as 130,000 residents fewer than a different branch of the Census Bureau released earlier in the month.
“Clearly, there’s 100,000 people who have disappeared off the face of the earth in 90 days,” said George Pettit, town manager for Gilbert and chairman of MAG’s population committee. “It is significantly less than what was originally estimated.”
The Arizona Department of Economic Security released figures recently showing about 3.65 million residents in Maricopa County as of July 1, 2005. On March 16, the Census Bureau released its estimate for that same day with a county population just under 3.64 million — and named Maricopa the third largest county in the nation.
But the preliminary middecade census finds there are 3.5 million residents as of Sept. 1, 2005 — 90 days after the previous, and higher, estimates. The results could cost the county itself as much as $14 million in funds, county spokesman Al Macias said.
Whether or not the county, cities and towns are harmed depends on whether estimates are similarly low statewide, or whether funds that could go to Maricopa County residents go elsewhere, Macias added.
Mesa officials said the mid-decade census shows Mesa’s population at 418,000 — below the estimated 450,000 — which could cost the city between $3 million and $6 million a year in state-shared revenue starting next fiscal year. Mesa is appealing the census results.
Chandler and Gilbert officials said their counts also are low, but that they did not have final numbers they could release.
“They didn’t quite meet our expectations,” said Chandler spokesman Dave Bigos, who said the census estimates are somewhere below city estimates of 238,500 residents. “Hopefully, they’ll adjust the numbers.”