(The Center Square) – The college town of Urbana Illinois has agreed to pay several hundred thousand dollars in taxpayer funds for a partial 2020 census recount.
The pricey expenditure is warranted, Mayor Diane Marlin said, because Urbana is losing several hundred thousand dollars in state and federal funding every year because their recorded population numbers were down by several thousand people in the official 2020 census results.
“People don’t realize how much of a city’s revenue is related to population, because that is how a lot of our revenue from the state and federal governments is distributed,” Marlin said. “It is one of those things where you don’t realize how important it is until you suddenly lose it.”
About 55,000 students attend the University of Illinois at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Many of them live in private rental housing or in residence halls that are located in Urbana. The students are counted as city residents, Marlin said.
In the Census year 2020, U of I shut down in-person learning on campus in the middle of March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two weeks later on April 1, when the 2020 Census got its official start, several thousand students had left their apartments and residence halls and did not get counted, Marlin suspects.
“Once the official census maps and results came out, it was very clear that the highest population drops were consistently on or near the U of I campus,” Marlin said.
Urbana’s share of the local motor fuel tax and the state income tax, and of federal funding for community development block grants and other programs serving low-income populations, are all dependent on population, Marlin said.
“Bottom line: We are losing $500,000 to $750,000 a year because of what we believe is an artificial drop in the official population,” she said.
The small Illinois communities of McDonough, Pingree Grove, and Warrenville are also seeking partial 2020 census recounts. Those municipalities have added new residential developments since 2010 that have boosted their populations, they maintain.