It's almost time to stand up and be counted for Census 2000, a nationwide head count that will begin next spring.
The census could boost the amount of money Payson gets from the state, said Bob Gould, Payson community development director.
State-shared revenues are based on population figures. When the town's population grows, so does its share of state money.
Gould, who heads up Complete Count, Gila County's Census 2000 Committee, said Payson's population has grown from 11,004 in 1995 to 13,180 (the estimate of the current population by the Department of Economic Security).
"To get an actual census count is to the benefit of everyone," said Gould.
In 1995, the town conducted a mid-decade census that added $200,000 to town coffers for roads, police, fire and other services.
The 1990 census showed that 23.3 percent of the homes in Payson were vacant and seasonal, he said. By 1995, that figure had dropped to 18.9 percent.
"What that meant to us, at $200 per capita, was $200,000 in state-shared revenue," he said.
Census questionnaires will be mailed and taken door-to-door from March through mid-April.
"We'll have some preliminary information available in April or May," he said. "The final counts we won't get until next December at the earliest."
In the meantime, the 20-member Complete Count Committee is trying to get the word out about the importance of taking part in the national census. Gila County will be competing with Maricopa, Pima and all the other counties in the state for funding.
The county and the town will use the census figures to qualify for state money and state and federal grants, Deputy Director of Community Services Cathy Melvin said.
"Demographics come from one place and one place only," Gould said, "and that's the census. We need to gather the information and we need to know how to identify the trends that are actually occurring in our county, state and town."
Melvin said the committee needs others to help spread the word and generate ideas for a successful census.
"We're trying to recruit people," she said. "We need people to volunteer to help us get the word out. We've tried to get people in Payson, but we just haven't had very good luck.
"I think people are afraid of confidentiality," she said, but the Census Bureau has a history of absolute confidentiality.
The Census Bureau will be hiring people to gather population information through the Department of Economic Security's Job Service. The work will last two months, and the pay will not count against income qualifications for those who receive public assistance.
"They must have reliable transportation and the hours are flexible," Melvin said.
The next meeting of the Complete Count Committee will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 16 in the Emergency Services Meeting Room at the County Courthouse in Globe.
A meeting in Payson is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 20 in the Town Hall council chambers. Members of the public are encouraged to attend. For more information, call Gould at 474-5242.
Source: U.S. Census
Census 2000: Counting the ways
Government officials aren't the only ones who will use Census 2000 data.
Below are some examples of how the data is used.
• Disaster victims: Census information aids in the rescue efforts provided by relief workers who estimate the number of people missing in neighborhoods. The data also provides detailed maps of areas that have been struck by weather-related disasters.
• Businesses: Census data provides a tool for new product research, and developers analyze census information when building shopping areas.
• Community development: Census information helps determine where to build roads, hospitals, health clinics and child-care centers.
• Social services programs: Census figures identify communities that have social service needs and allow for funding through various programs.
• Health issues: Census data is critical in providing for public health. The data is used to calculate birth and death rates and incidents of disease and their prevalence in specific communities so that health professionals can intervene, prevent problems and measure the impact of such problems.