Community Development Director Bob Gould said he's spreading the word about the importance of Census 2000. As chairman of the county's Complete Count Committee, Gould said most people don't realize just how vital an accurate count is to their daily lives.
"What we accomplished by doing the 1995 Special Census is, we gained an additional $1 million in state-shared revenues," Gould said. "We found out things had changed as far as our seasonal vacancy rate went."
When the seasonal vacancy rate dropped from 23.3 percent to 18.9 percent, the town's permanent population numbers showed an increase. The increase meant additional money for the town because the state-shared revenue is based on permanent residency only.
"If we hadn't done that census, they would have looked at our housing starts and done an estimate based on 23.3 percent seasonal vacancy," Gould said. "That meant we got over $200,000 a year more than we anticipated."
But he said he is not so sure that the seasonal vacancy rate will look quite as good for the upcoming 2000 census.
"I expect it'll climb up," he said. "A 20-percent drop in a seasonal vacancy rate was a fast drop -- I expect it'll go up a little bit, anyway."
Payson residents can expect to see one of two forms in their mailboxes around the first week of March. Eighty-three percent of the households will get the short form. The rest will get a long form which will ask for more detailed information.
Gould said the information is important in more ways than one. It's information that people doing grant applications need to provide accurate demographics for the community in which they live.
"It helps plan for your community," Gould said. "By looking at demographics, you can determine what your needs are. If we're sitting here at the Town of Payson looking at the school age population, we can project out there what we're going to have."
Essential services like fire and police protection also depend on census information to plan for additional staff and equipment for their departments.
"Fire protection services look at population and locate fire engines where the most need is, to respond within four minutes," Gould said. "The census is where that information comes from."
The questionnaires break down the information for each family member -- age, sex, income, housing, employment, transportation needs.
Gould said all the questions are critical for helping identify the community's needs.
Getting those questionnaires returned is the problem, though. Gould said that even though the forms come with a self-addressed stamped envelope, only 55 percent of the population returned their forms for the 1990 Payson census.
"The Census Bureau is helping set up meetings in local communities," he said. "We're talking about setting up the centers to assist people who have questions about the forms and how to return them."
Gould said the forms should be returned by June, and the town should be getting its initial numbers by the fall.
"I would hope they'd look at the numbers in the next budget year," he said.
Assistance centers will be set up around town, he said, and volunteers from the community will be needed to help staff these centers. The U.S. Census Bureau will have representatives out in communities helping to train these volunteers.
Census Bureau representatives also will be training paid census takers who go door-to-door in the community.
Nina Owens, job service manager at the local DES, said her office is doing the job registration and testing.
"What they do is, if they're interested in applying, they come in and talk to us about the job," Owens said. "They then call an 800 number and set up an appointment for testing. They want the takers to be from the community. They have them go to their own neighborhoods so they won't miss anybody."
Owens said the job pays $10.50 an hour, plus 31 cents a mile, and will last four to six weeks.
"They'll be interviewing and testing through May," she said, "but some will be starting at the end of the month."
For information on becoming a census taker, call (888) 325-7733 or stop by the DES office at 122 East Highway 260, Suite 110.