2020 Census: What is it good for in Scottsdale?

Decennial count begins Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Posted 11/24/19

The Scottsdale Complete Count Committee is here to count you.

The United States Constitution --- a document that continues to guide the great American democratic experiment --- mandates a …

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2020 Census: What is it good for in Scottsdale?

Decennial count begins Wednesday, April 1, 2020


The Scottsdale Complete Count Committee is here to count you.

The United States Constitution --- a document that continues to guide the great American democratic experiment --- mandates a population count every decade.

Census and municipal officials agree results steer Congressional reapportionment, the boundary of both state and federal legislative districts and serves as the basic funding formula fueling federal allocations and grants for schools, hospitals, roads, and public infrastructure.

The 2020 Census begins Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

In mid-November, the City of Scottsdale formed its Complete Count Committee aimed to encourage local residents to participate with the decennial headcount.

“Originally the purpose of the Census was to get the correct count of the number of voters or legally prospective citizen-voters in each state of the union in order to meet the constitutional allocation of Congressional House seats to each state and to each state’s Electoral College vote,” said Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane at the onset of the Census 2020 effort.

“For many today, the importance of the Scottsdale residents’ participation in the upcoming 2020 Census is the effort to maximize the amount of federal transfer payments to our state. The complete count of all people residing in the state whether they are citizens (voters) or not is important to get the maximum federal funding made available for a variety of federal-income transfers as well as social programs.”

--- Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane

City officials contend the data collected is an essential tool for helping businesses, schools, and municipal leaders make decisions about how to invest resources to most effectively serve the public.

“For Scottsdale specifically, a short count would mean federally funded services based on population as determined by the Census count may be sacrificed or curtailed,” Mayor Lane pointed out.

“Also, to the extent that Arizona has fewer non-citizens counted as voters by the Census versus other states, Arizona will lose political power relative to others in the House of Representatives by a misallocation of House seats, and their votes in the Electoral College.”

Outlined by the Constitution and administered through the U.S. Census Bureau --- a nonpartisan government agency --- the nationwide count will seek general data from all U.S. households. That data is:

  • How many people are living or staying at your home on April 1, 2020.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented.
  • About the sex of each person in your home.
  • About the age of each person in your home.
  • About the race of each person in your home.
  • About whether a person in your home is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.
  • About the relationship of each person in your home.

Mayor Lane explains an accurate count shapes both local and national political boundaries, in-turn shaping the services and laws of the United States of America.

“The census counts are used on the allocation of U.S. House seats among all states based on the population of citizens or prospective voters,” he pointed out. “Since the Census counts all people residing in the state, it’s reasonable to conclude that allocation of congressional seats is distorted by the number of non-citizens counted. Thus, diminishing the political power of those states with fewer non-citizens being counted for the U.S. House of Representative seats and the electoral college votes.”

All should be counted to ensure the gap between high- and low-wage disparity can become smaller, Mayor Lane says.

“Further, the Census data on individual and household income only records, accumulate an analysis of that data without consideration for the extent of taxes paid by income earners and/or the amount federal and state transfer payments received by low-income earners,” he said of how basic data points can distort the reality of a macroeconomic situation.

“The use of census data in this area distorts the national political conversation on income inequality and the disparity between high-income earners and lower-income earners. From the municipal perspective, the larger number of census-data-determined-low-income residents the more significant federal transfer payments are made or will be made available to the state for services and redistribution of income to low-income individuals and households.”

All figures count

Population figures play a vital role in statewide and federal fund allocations divided up between taxing districts like cities, towns and school districts.

“Each city receives a portion of state sales tax, state income tax, and motor vehicle license tax, all based upon population,” said Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson.

“An accurate population count is very important to ensure the city receives its fair share of those revenues, which go toward day-to-day operations. Scottsdale’s state shared revenues are projected to be more than $70 million in the current fiscal year, making this source one of the largest in the city’s General Fund.”

--- Jim Thompson, Scottsdale city manager

An Oct. 15 monthly financial report to City Council illustrates the dollars and cents behind state-shared revenues and the Census figures that drive those allocations.

Of the $295.1 million General Fund fueling fiscal year 2018-19 day-to-day operations at the City of Scottsdale, $64.5 million were derived from state-shared revenues, the mid-October City Treasurer report states.

Furthermore, the report outlines the anticipated state-shared revenue allocation for fiscal year 2019-20 is at $70.8 million of the $326.2 million General Fund balance available for operations.

State-shared revenues, as set by the Arizona Legislature, are:

  • Income tax or urban revenue sharing.
  • Transaction privilege tax.
  • Vehicle license tax.
  • Highway User Revenue Fund.

Mr. Thompson further explains Census figures help form the problems for city servants to solve.

“Population data is important to planning and delivering a wide variety of city services,” he said.  “We look at traffic counts and other data when planning roads, but population data about where people live and work is another key data point. This information is also useful in planning transit and trolley routes, and in seeking federal transportation grant money to provide services to the public.”

The latest figures show in fiscal year 2016, the State of Arizona received $14.2 billion in federal funds, which according to the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, represents a $1 billion increase over the $13.2 billion reported a year earlier.

What is it good for?

As Maricopa County population booms, how current and future residents get around will become more and more a focus of government --- a likely consequence of the 2020 Census count.

“Population data provide an important baseline for planning and delivering any number of city services,” said Scottsdale Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette. “Beyond that, population and demographic data collected via the Census can be used by businesses, nonprofits, schools, and others to locate, plan and deliver products, programs and services.”

The city of Scottsdale has prepared several data points focused on the relevance of Census figures with basic information including:

  • More than 250,000 residents call Scottsdale home. Scottsdale’s population has steadily grown, with the largest amount of growth from 1990 to 2000.
  • Scottsdale’s median age (47) is more than nine years higher than the national median and the majority of Scottsdale residents are older than age 45.
  • The majority of Scottsdale residents are white (81 percent) and the municipality has slightly more females (121,741) than males (117,542).
  • The majority of Scottsdale residents have attended some college (37,688) and more than half have obtained Associate Degrees or higher (63,461).
  • The majority of households in Scottsdale are one or two person homes. Less than 13% of all homes have more than three people.
  • The median home cost of Scottsdale housing ($433,500) is more than neighboring cities and is expected to continue to grow over time.
  • Half of Scottsdale residents make less than $80,306 and half of Scottsdale residents make more than $80,306. Median household income: $80,306.

Basic socio-economic data allows city staff and elected leaders determine where critical services and infrastructure ought to be built, maintained or contemplated.

“Much of the city’s infrastructure is planned and built based on use and demand,” Mr. Corsette said. “Proper planning for where facilities and roads should go requires population data.”

A prime example of critical services delivered, in Mr. Corsette’s estimation, the construction of Scottsdale Fire Station 603.

“Driven by shifts in population across southern Scottsdale, the current location of the station does not provide the best possible service and response times for the community,” he said.

“Population and call data were the determining factors in deciding that the station should be moved. Citizens approved bond funding in 2015, and the station is under construction now. Its new location will make it a much better resource for residents and will also positively impact other stations nearby and the parts of Scottsdale they serve.”