To the point week of 4-1-10

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I’M SURE YOU GOT ONE IN the mail, too; but recently I got my Census questionnaire in the mail.

I’m never sure how I feel about it. I know that it is a “necessary evil” that the government implements every 10 years, but I always figured that if the government wanted to know something about me, it probably already did.

But as I learn more and more about the Census and what important information it holds for the people of Switzerland County, the more I understand that not only is it the law that you fill it out – but it may also save you money.

That’s right - money.

Switzerland County School Corporation Treasurer Wilma Swango emailed me some information earlier this week showing participation rates around the nation as well as the State of Indiana, and there were some troubling statistics.

Currently, Switzerland County ranks 90th out of Indiana’s 92 counties in terms of participation in the Census. Only 31-percent of our residents have participated at this point, compared to just 60-percent who participated 10 years ago when the Census was held in 2000.

Folks, we are leaving money on the table.

Federal dollars, particularly dollars that are targeted at education, are based on the numbers of residents and the numbers of children in each area.

Money is sent to the state based on numbers of school age children. Money is sent to individual school districts based on the numbers of school age children.

Remediation dollars, sent here through programs such as Title I, are based on a number of factors, many of them economic – which we also qualify for; but primarily its based on how many children are in your county. In your community. In your school.

And do you know how the federal government gets those population figures that it uses to send money here?

The Census.

Every family who doesn’t send in the Census form and tells the government that there are school-age children in their home in essence takes federal assistance dollars right out of the hands of our school officials.

They can’t provide us with federal money to help with education if they don’t know your kids exist.

It’s simple math.

I understand people’s reluctance to provide a bunch of information about themselves and their families to the federal government, but the only other recourse for county officials and school officials is to make up shortfalls is to increase county taxes.

So it seems to me that we have a choice.

You have a choice.

You can either take a few minutes and fill out the Census information and mail it back in; or you can speak directly with a Census worker who will soon be going around the county trying to get participation.

Or you can pay higher taxes when federal monies for programs like education dry up.

When those dollars do go away, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

When I look at the fact that only 60-percent of our county population filled out the Census 10 years ago, I can’t help but wonder how many dollars Switzerland County left on the table that could have been here helping our kids and helping with county and state programs?

Just under half of our population wasn’t counted, and since federal dollars and assistance are determined by Census figures, that means we didn’t get our fair share.

Look at it this way: for every dollar we were entitled to (after all, it’s our money to begin with), Switzerland County only got 60-cents of it.

Now that 40-cents may not seem like much, but what if our county was eligible for $1 million in grants and assistance and federal programming? We only would have received $600,000 – which means we left $400,000 on the table.

That’s a lot of money.

In this economic climate, no one wants to pay more taxes than we need to, and the federal government is offering us a way to substitute federal funds for our taxes, and all we have to do is fill out a form and mail it in.

Seems like a pretty good deal to me, so take the time to fill out the form and send it in.

It may mean more money and better educational opportunities for our children.

Surely that’s worth your time.