So far, Gila County residents aren't returning as many of their Census 2000 forms as expected, but that could be because some Payson residents haven't received their forms.
Arizona Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, who visited Payson Tuesday to talk with business and community leaders about growth and the economy, said she was surprised to learn that the Census had missed some Payson residents.
"This is the first place I've come where the people haven't received their forms," she said. "I have not encountered this elsewhere."
Bob Gould, who heads up the Complete Count Committee for Gila County, said the forms in Payson were hand-delivered.
"If you had gotten one, it would have been dropped off at the house," he said. "I don't know what happened here. I'm assuming they're giving them out to the addresses they have."
Gould said residents on a number of Payson streets didn't receive forms.
"Some of them were on streets that have been on the map 10 years," he said. "All I know is, we have to make sure they do get them."
When the Census count is over this summer, Gould said he'll ask the Census Bureau to evaluate the problem and fix it.
Census forms available
For now, residents who didn't receive their Census forms will have to pick them up at the Community Development Building at Town Hall, 303 N. Beeline Highway, or at the Community Action Program office at 107 West Frontier.
But Bayless said having a complete count for Payson and Gila County will be worth the time and effort it takes to pick up and fill out the forms.
"Every person they count is worth $415 per year," she said. "If you don't count them, that's what you miss. When you start missing whole families, you get up into the millions.
"It means a lot, not just financially. We stand to gain, as a state, two, maybe three, Congressional seats -- that's our voice in Washington.
"For the next 10 years, this information will be used for statistical and analytical purposes. It's important for all of Arizona, particularly the people of this area to respond."
Although the long forms contain a number of personal questions about people's lives, the information is confidential, Bayless said. The information will be used to help communities fund the projects and services they need, she said, and it will be used to help them plan for their futures.
Payson has had a 56-percent Census form return rate, slightly lower than the town's target of 60 percent.
Gila County has had a 44-percent response rate, 11 percent lower than the national response rate.
The state of Arizona's response rate is currently 53 percent, 2 percentage points lower than the national average.
Cathy Melvin, deputy director of community services for Gila County, said most of the forms should be in by July when the Census Bureau will begin tallying up the numbers and information.
"The report from the Census Bureau has to be in by Dec. 31 to the president," she said.
After April 14, census workers will be going door to door to collect the forms.
For more information or to obtain a form, call Gould at 474-5242, extension 2267, Tom Behl at 474-2647 or Dean Caddy at 474-8321.