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Census Bureau readies campaign

"Count heads, make moneyWould you like to get to know your neighbors better and perform a major public service at the same time? Then you might want to sign up to be a census taker. The going wage is $11.25 per hour plus 31 cents per mile for travel. About 100 people will be hired in Island County and they will work from March through June. Employees will be trained and must pass a test. As much as possible, people will be hired to work within their own neighborhoods. Call 1-800-848-9256, ext. 115 for more information.Counting down to the year 2000 is part of history. Now, the federal government has turned its attention to the future and to counting up the country’s population. Census takers will hit the streets April 1 in an attempt to tally everyone in America and its territories. The resulting counts will determine the number and distribution of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the allocation of about $182 billion in federal money annually.Every household with a mailing address will get a census form this year. It will ask such questions as your name, sex, age, relationship in the household, race, whether you own or rent your home and whether you are of Hispanic origin. About one out of every six homes will receive a special long version of the form that will ask many more questions including place of birth, education, language spoken at home, veteran status, place of work, the plumbing and kitchen facilities in your home and its value. Mary Lisenbery of the regional census office in Mount Vernon said the key part of any census is getting everyone counted. To accomplish the task, the Mount Vernon office will hire about 600 people over the next few months to collect census data in Island, Skagit, Whatcom and San Juan counties. Following the last census in 1990, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that about 2.2 percent of Island County’s population was not counted. If that happens again in 2000, it will mean about 350 county residents will be missed. Though that may not seem like a lot, it represents about $800 per person per year or more than $3 million in lost revenue for the county over the next 10 years, said Lisenbery.Federal money goes to help pay for schools, employment services, housing assistance, highway construction, hospital services and senior programs among other things. Undercounting of minorities has been a problem nationwide and Island County is no exception. Lisenbery said about 3.3 percent of the county’s blacks and 6.3 percent of its Hispanics were not counted in 1990.“That’s quite a big number,” she said.In the past, a large portion of county residents have been seasonal rather than full-time. Though these people use county services for at least some of the year, they generally fill out the census form based on their primary residence outside the county. As a result, they don’t count as Island County citizens. But seasonal residency is declining. In 1980, according to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, slightly more than 20 percent of local housing was ownedby part-time residents. In 1990 that number had slipped to a little less than 12 percent. By the year 2020 it is expected to be 2 percent or less. County planners say the decrease is due to the fact that vacation houses are being converted to full-time homes as owners retire and that the higher cost of housing is making it more difficult for some owners to maintain more than one household.Whidbey’s ever-changing military population is also somewhat difficult to count. Lisenbery said the Navy plans to do its own “self enumeration.” U. S. military and federal civilian personnel and their dependents stationed in other countries will be counted as overseas population. Private U.S. citizens living abroad will not be included in the overseas counts.The Census Bureau estimates that it will take about 10 minutes to fill out the short census form and about 38 minutes to complete the long form. Results of the census should be available to the public by the end of the year."

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