Census information could affect city’s finances

Published 7:55 am Thursday, December 23, 2010

Although county and municipal census data will not be released until February 2011, city officials are preparing for whatever the numbers throw at them.

“We made a real effort to get everyone counted,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said. “If we come back at (a population of) 23,000, I’m going to be really disappointed. I hope we come back one-thousand or two higher than that.”

Austin’s official population according to the 2000 census was 23,314, and an estimate in 2009 cited the town as having a population of 22,981.

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Stiehm said the census results could affect the federal subsidies the city receives and, potentially, the amount of Local Government Aid (LGA) allotted to the city by the state.

“We felt there were a lot more (people) here as far as the immigrant population,” Stiehm said. “We were trying to get them counted. We’re providing a lot of services to (immigrants) and we want to be reimbursed for those services.”

As far as LGA is concerned, the mayor said the city is prepared for cuts regardless of the reasons or motivation.

Austin City Council approved the 2011 budget earlier this week, but city officials have outlined a back-up plan in case changes are made to LGA distribution during the coming legislative session.

“If we do get cuts because of a decrease in population, I think we’re ready,” Stiehm said. “But I don’t think we’ll have a decrease in population.”

Minnesota as a whole experienced a 7.8 percent population surge, allowing the state to keep its eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Demographers say Minnesota was on the edge of losing a seat for the first time since 1960 as the nation’s population continued its decades-long shift South and West.

City officials will know more information about what could be at stake when the Census Bureau releases local population tallies in February.

“We’re just anxiously awaiting the results,” said Stiehm.