The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee)
BYLINE: By, Jamie Page
Officials here say they believe the city has continued to grow, even through the tough economy, and some want to know where Spring Hill’s population stands.
And it is not just for the sake of knowing; growing cities frequently conduct a special census because it can translate into revenue.
The city’s Budget and Finance Committee is recommending $100,000 be included in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget to pay for the census. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen soon will consider the proposed budget. If approved, the special census would begin next year.
The city would recover the cost of the census by receiving additional state shared revenues, which are distributed to cities on a per capita basis, such as taxes on retail sales, fuel and alcohol, Spring Hill City Administrator Victor Lay said.
A higher population also can boost grant funding, the distribution of which is sometimes based on population. And an updated count helps the city more accurately plan for growth.
“A city like Columbia doesn’t need to do it, because they are not growing, but those cities that are seeing growth, like Spring Hill, it’s worth it to pay for that service because we will certainly get it back,” said Spring Hill Finance Director Jim Smith.
The city would hire a third-party firm to conduct the citywide census and then the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s local planning office must sign off on it to make it official.
Tennessee cities can conduct up to three special counts between federal censuses to show their population growth. Spring Hill conducted three in the previous decade and probably will have at least two more this decade, Smith said. Each of the previous counts has paid off.
For instance, Spring Hill’s last special census, in 2007, showed 6,137 more people moved there in only two years. The 35 percent growth spurt translated into $672,615 – or $109.60 per person – in additional state funding.
Spring Hill’s population growth has been unusual, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Its head count stood at only 1,464 people in 1990 before growing to 7,115 in 2000, to 13,697 in 2004, to 17,325 in 2005, to 23,462 in 2007 (the last special census) and to 29,036 in 2010.
It’s hard to say how much it may have grown since then, but officials say there have been many indications of growth, even during the recession.
“We are really seeing this year for the first time the effect of the 2010 census,” Smith said.
For example, from July 1, 2010, through April 30, 2011, the city collected $1,285,550 in state shared sales taxes. From July 1, 2011, through April 30, 2012, it collected $1,589,159.
Building permits are up, too. The city issued 180 permits in 2009, 218 in 2010 and 303 in 2011. Through April, it has issued 112, putting it on course to exceed last year.
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