What's so important about the census?

Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 8:50 p.m. CST; updated 11:06 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 24, 2011

COLUMBIA — The 2010 U.S. Census numbers are in, and they show Columbia grew 28 percent over the previous 10 years to a population of 108,500. But why is the number so important? Here are a few reasons.

WARD REAPPORTIONMENT: After every decennial census, the city redraws its ward boundaries. The city has six wards, each of which has one representative on the Columbia City Council. Population is the main factor in determining ward lines, but those charged with redrawing the lines can and do consider other factors, such as keeping neighborhood representation intact.

After the 2000 census, the City Council appointed a committee with one representative from each ward to propose new boundaries. The committee held public meetings and considered several different proposals before presenting one to the council for approval.

Boone County also will use the numbers to redraw townships and the boundaries of districts represented by associate commissioners.

FEDERALLY FUNDED PROGRAMS: Levels of funding from major federal programs are affected by census numbers. Among the most notable are those administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will adjust its next budget based on census results.

The census will affect HUD's Community Development Block Grant program, which distributes money to cities across the country to help pay for projects intended to benefit low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. As it stands, Columbia officials expect about $860,000 in block grant money during 2012. The census also will influence funding from HUD's HOME Investment Partnership Act, which pays for affordable housing programs. The city expects to receive another $660,000 through that program in 2012.

HUD funding is based on a formula that considers population, income, poverty and housing issues and compares those factors with other metropolitan areas.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Population is important to retailers and other businesses considering expansion. Columbia, though, had already hit the 100,000 mark, so the census results will not likely have a big impact on companies' decisions about whether to locate here.

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