Council puts personal money toward Census effort



BURTON — When members of the City Council learned the city may fall short of anticipated 2020 Census numbers, they stepped up with a plan to offer gift cards for a drawing to get residents to fill out the Census and turn it in.

At the July 20 council meeting, the effort garnered about $900, contributed by councilmembers, administrators and even the city attorney.

Councilman Vaughn Smith, who co-chairs the Census committee with Vice President Greg Fenner, said numbers from the Census show the city is down nearly 1-percernt in responses from the 2010 Census and they determined the city’s southend, in the area of Bendle schools, is where Census completion is lagging the most.

“From 10 years ago, to where we are now, of the people who have reported we are still 1-percent down,” said Mayor Duane Haskins. “So, if we missed it 10 years ago by one person, we’re not looking good right now at 1-percent.”

Haskins and Smith said they are looking into doing a mailing to Burton’s south-end, which is down approximately 4-percent from 10 years ago.

The mailing will encourage residents, mostly in the Bendle area of 1,345, where approximately 2,700-2,800 residents live.

The mailing will encourage them to fill out their Census and will offer a way to submit proof of their Census completion so they can have their name entered into a drawing to win a gift card, funded through a collection of money donated by councilmembers and city administrators.

“We are at a standstill with the 2020 Census. I’ve looked again today and we’re down 1.1 percent from the self-response rate in 2010,” said Smith. “You can literally look at each Census track and see which ones were up and down. Bendle and the south end are down 2.9 percent, while some areas are up 3-4 percent.

“The 1-percent, we can probably overcome that, but the Bendle one is a problem.”

Smith said he located a company and purchased a mailing list for that area of the city. He also began a collection which now includes funds donated by Smith, Fenner, Haskins and Councilmembers Tina Conley, Dennis O’Keefe, Steve Heffner, DPW Director Charles Abbey, Assistant Fire Chief Mike Vogt and City Attorney Amanda Doyle.

Haskins said when the cards are mailed out, they will include educational material the city has been promoting about the Census and will give instructions about how to enter the drawing to win the gift card prizes.

“No city money, no campaign money involved,” said Haskins. “It’s just out of our pockets.”

Doyle said there are no legal issues with the city council using money it donates for such a cause, but she advised the officials to keep track of the money, where it comes from and where it goes.

Further information will be forthcoming regarding the drawing.

Smith said every person the city picks up through completion of the Census is another $18,000 for the city.

The city of Burton has been on a year-long campaign to boost resident participation in the Census 2020 after potentially losing out on millions of dollars in federal money after missing a headcount of 30,000 residents by one person in 2010.