Special census could mean more than $1.4M for North Liberty

Josh O'Leary

With new development continuing to stretch its borders, it’s clear that North Liberty’s population has grown significantly in the years since census workers last canvassed the town in 2010.

In the coming months, the city will conduct a special mid-decade census to determine just how great that growth has been, with a larger allotment of the state’s Road Use Tax dollars at stake.

The city will soon begin recruiting workers to conduct the special census, which the city has conducted mid-decade every 10 years since the 1960s, with with the exception of the 1980s. The last official U.S. census count in 2010 pegged North Liberty’s population at 13,374, but city officials estimate it has grown to more than 17,000 since then.

The count is significant because the state distributes its Road Use Tax funds to cities based on population. North Liberty is one of seven fast-growing Iowa cities preparing for a special census this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Others include the central Iowa cities of Bondurant, Grimes, West Des Moines, Johnston, Clive and Waukee.

North Liberty will spend an estimated $310,091 to send census workers back out this year, but an updated count is expected to result in an additional $280,000 per year in Road Use Tax revenue.

That adds up to $1.4 million over the next five years, minus the cost of the census, which would be put toward road projects and maintenance efforts. Additionally, the 10-cent increase to the gas tax enacted by the state Legislature earlier this year could bolster that amount even more.

“We have a lot more miles of streets than we did in 2010, so this gives us the ability to keep up with those demands just in operating expenses,” said Tracey Mulcahey, assistant city administrator and city clerk.

The city will be tasked with recruiting applicants for jobs that include clerical staff, crew leaders and enumerators — those who are going door to door to collect data. Wages range from $10.50 from $15.05 an hour, and the process is expected to last anywhere from two to eight weeks. It’s unclear when work on the special census will begin, but it’s expected to be this summer.

Mulcahey said the city is seeking more than 280 applicants to fill an estimated 70 to 90 census jobs.

“We want everyone to be counted, and it’s important that everyone be included in this because every penny of that helps our budget and makes things better for the entire community,” Mulcahey said.

North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen said it’s important that road funding keep pace with North Liberty’s growth, given the number of projects in progress or coming down the pike. For example, the city is in the midst of phase two of its Highway 965 project, said Nielsen, and future improvements are planned for North Dubuque Street.

“If we have more people that are using the roads than we’re getting money for, we definitely need to get that fixed,” Nielsen said of the special census.

Reach Josh O’Leary at joleary@press-citizen.com or 887-5415, and follow him on Twitter at @JD_OLeary.

Special census application information

•More information can be found about applying for special census jobs in North Liberty at www.census.gov/regions/chicago/www/jobs.

North Liberty population growth

1990: 2,926.

2000: 5,367.

2010: 13,374.

2015 (estimated): 17,000.