Tahoe residents not filling out census forms
South Lake Tahoe doesn’t count for much.
Time is running out for the 2000 census and the city on the south shore of Lake Tahoe has one of the lowest turnout rates in California.
“We are falling terribly behind in mailing in our census forms,” said Gail Taylor, president of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.
Taylor met with Joe Jimenez, a participating specialist for the census, Monday to discuss the dismal state of Tahoe’s mail-in returns.
Monday’s state average was 57 percent and South Shore’s average was only 35 percent. Truckee lagged even farther behind with 19 percent.
The national goal is 70 percent.
“This is a way of getting money back (to the community) and it takes next to no time at all to fill it out,” Jimenez said.
“We live with these numbers for 10 years,” Jimenez said. “It’s not like we can go back next year and change it.”
Although Jimenez said that the transient nature of South Shore residents is a likely cause for the low census turnout, he added that residents need to understand that census counts earmark federal dollars.
Jimenez wants the region to be adequately represented so that it can receive the funding it needs for political districts, health and child care, parks and roads. Otherwise, a poor turnout could be a repeat of the early 1990s, which were horrible years for government funding, Jimenez warned.
He added that social services were the first services cut. Jimenez said the 1990 census was responsible for county employee cutbacks and health clinic closures.
Residents have until April 9 to mail in their forms in order to be recorded into census databases by April 11. After that date, census workers have no choice but to hunt down the missing respondents.
On April 28, non-responses will force the census staff to either call residents for missing information or visit homes for interviews.
It costs taxpayers $3.40 for each form to be mailed by the post office and $35 for an employee to conduct an interview.
“People miss the point,” Taylor said.
Some residents have told Taylor that the census process makes them feel like they are being watched by “Big Brother.” She thinks that community members will be adversely affected by not mailing in the form.
According to Jimenez, the whole state will be.
“If you are not mailing in your census, it is costing the state $1,600 per person,” he said.
California has anticipated a loss of $5 billion.
Taylor and Jimenez also wanted to ease people’s fears that they will be fined for not filling in every part of the questionnaire, nor will they be subject to the information becoming public record.
If you need any help with your census you can log on to http://www.census.gov/
The census short form consists of eight questions.
One out of six households will receive a long form which has 53 questions addressing population and housing information.
Census 2000 Initial Response Rates for Monday
El Dorado County-50 percent
Placer County-56 percent
Alpine County-37 percent
Nevada County-46 percent
Sacramento County-55 percent
City of South Lake Tahoe-35 percent
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