Long: Census request ‘double taxing’
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
By THOMAS JENKINS
Go back to the federal government and ask for funding.
That’s the message Howard County Commissioner Jimmie Long delivered to representatives of the 2010 Census Monday morning during the court’s meeting, following a request for a $5,000 donation to help fund the nationwide head count.
“Taxpayers have already been taxed to provide funding for the Census once,” said County Commissioner for Precinct 3 Jimmie Long. “That was done through our federal income tax. I feel like the government is trying to force our local residents to put pressure on the local entities to fund something that has already been funded. I agree that you need to have publicity, and they need to fund that. They need to consider that as a part of the cost.”
Charlene Romero McBride, partnership specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau, said the $5,000 is an investment in the community.
“Nationally, the 2010 Census will go ahead with a marketing plan. Unfortunately, it starts dwindling down for our smaller counties,” said McBride. “It doesn’t go to the radio stations, it doesn’t go to the newspapers. It provides us with some marketing items, but not a whole lot. I have 18 counties that I’m working with, and only the two largest counties in that area have their own funds, so I don’t do any of this with them.
“This is an investment in the community. What happens is you’re assisting the Complete Count Committee and help to get the word out. We go out and explain to people what the census does and how important it is. In the end, this helps your non-profit organizations, hospitals, police departments, fire departments… It all comes back to you by the numbers we get in the census.”
McBride said she’s not looking for a check from the commissioners now, just for the county to set aside the money in case it’s needed.
“We’re not saying that we want you to sign a check and give it to us. What we’re asking you to do is go ahead and set aside funds so once we start getting the promotional items we need, it just gets taken out of that (money),” said McBride. “So we might not use the whole amount. We’ve asked Coahoma to consider giving us $1,000, and we did receive $500 from Forsan last week. And we’re also going to ask the city to match whatever the county decides to do for the Complete Count Committee as well. Everyone is investing in this. Everyone is really going in and making sure we do provide the tools for the Complete Count Committee.”
Long, who chided the federal census for asking for funding alongside Precinct 2 Commissioner Jerry Kilgore, said he supports the effort, but feels like it needs to be funded solely by the federal government.
“I support the census,” said Long firmly. “But I don’t support the idea the taxpayers should be taxed again to pay for a census the federal government is already paid for. I’m just not for double-taxing. And I know you need funding for local advertising, and I think that’s when you have to go back to the federal government and tell them you have to have this additional funding.
“There’s a strain on us, and I realize it’s not a lot of money. However, if we keep doing that, from step to step… before we know it we’ve spent $100,000, and I just don’t feel like the taxpayers need to pay double on that.”
McBride reminded the court the census was already adding jobs to the Howard County workforce — albeit temporary jobs — and that incomplete information could spell disaster for area agencies looking to receive grants.
“A big part of what is really funded for census goes for the jobs it creates,” said McBride. “And it creates a lot of jobs in your area. So it is creating jobs and money for your area, as well. And when it comes to the promotional part… the investment can be made by the community.
“The value of this is when you start counting everyone in your community, those are the numbers that your hospitals and non-profit organizations — anyone that is developing a grant — use for those things. It helps your community out a lot.”
According to Long, those complaints from local grant-seekers have yet to come.
“None of those organizations that depend upon the census for their grant writing have gone to their local entities — not to this court since I’ve been on it — and said they are having trouble getting grant money because we don’t have a good census,” said Long.
The court declined to take any action on the matter. The Big Spring City Council, which McBride told county officials plans to follow their lead in the matter, is expected to discuss a possible donation to the 2010 Census this evening during its regular meeting.