In an effort to encourage Bulloch County residents to fill out their 2010 U.S. Census forms, the City of Statesboro is offering a utility discount in exchange for a completed questionnaire.
Every city utility account is eligible for a $5 discount to their bill if they bring in their census form to the city. Councilman Travis Chance said it is important for the future of the city and county's growth to get an accurate count of the population.
“We're doing it to really encourage our citizens to take an active role in this year's census. We need to make sure (citizens) get their census form turned in promptly and get them turned in completely and correctly,” Chance said. “It positions us for federal and state funds and also to gives us an accurate view of how much Statesboro has grown.”
To receive the discount, utility customers will need to bring their completed census form — unsealed — to the payment desk on the first floor of city hall. Customer service representatives will check to make sure the form is complete and signed, then will seal it and set it aside for mailing to the federal government.
Since the postage is pre-paid on the census forms, it won't cost the city any additional money to mail out the forms.
Once the form has been checked, the city will make a notation on the person's utility account and the $5 discount will be reflected on the following month's bills. The discount will only apply to residential accounts and customers will be eligible for only one discount per account or residence.
The idea for the discounts stemmed from discussions council members had with city staff during the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce annual retreat held last weekend on St. Simon's Island. City Manager Shane Haynes said local leaders discussed how to maximize participation in this year's census.
“That was one of the three big topics coming out of the retreat — to try and urge participation across the city and county,” Haynes said. “We want to get the citizens to get out and get counted, so we can hopefully reach MSA status and open the door for potential funding from the state and federal levels.”
According to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the general concept of a Metropolitan Statistical Area is that of an area containing a recognized population nucleus and adjacent communities that have a high degree of integration with that nucleus. The purpose of the standards for defining MSAs is to provide nationally consistent definitions for collecting, tabulating, and publishing Federal statistics for a set of geographic areas. To this end, MSA's create a statistical representation of the social and economic linkages between urban cores and outlying, integrated areas.
In addition, according to Haynes, hitting certain MSA thresholds opens up the city and county to additional federal and state. He also said certain retail and commercial businesses are look for MSA designations before looking at relocating to that area.
The federal government will start sending out census questionnaires March 15.