Census Gains Mean Cash for Mid-Michigan Cities

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Tuesday was a gloomy day in Mason with clouds and rain moving in.

But inside of Mason City Hall, it was nothing but sunshine for city administrator Marty Colburn. His day was brightened by census data showing Mason added more than a thousand people over the last decade, a 15 percent bump.

Although Colburn is happy, he isn't surprised. He says new housing, strong public schools and the tight-knit community Mason has to offer are attractive to those moving within and from outside of the area.

"We invest a lot of the money we have available not just into services, but infrastructure as well," Colburn told WILX.

East Lansing city manager Ted Staton was pleased with his city's numbers too. The 2010 census showed a gain of 4.2 percent since 2000. That's a gain that makes a real difference in the city's budget.

"State revenue sharing money is distributed based on population and that'll go up 4.2 percent," said Staton. "State gas and way tax money comes to municipalities based on a formula that factors in population."

National census numbers released Tuesday showed a gloomier picture overall. Michigan is the only state in the US that has seen a population decline since 2000, losing more than 53,000 residents. That drop means Michigan will lose one seat in the US House, down to 14 overall.

Detroit took an especially hard hit during that same time period, losing a quarter of its residents, although city officials are disputing that number.

Some mid-Michigan communities are losing population too. Lansing fell 4.2 percent, losing just less than 5,000 people. Jackson's population dropped nearly 3,000 people, 7.7 percent overall.

"Because of the number of vacant homes and unemployment, it makes sense that that's the number we're at," said Karen Dunigan, Jackson's mayor. "I'm not surprised. Our census is down about what we thought it would be."

And Dunigan says the city has already taken the drop in population, and the funding cut that comes with it, into account in its budget.

But even for cities like Mason that received good news in the census Tuesday, potential state revenue sharing cuts are concerning.

"The tough part is some of the funding mechanisms are changing and we have to step back and really look at the future," said Colburn.

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