Over the next few months, workers with the United States Census Bureau will take on the daunting task of counting America. While the goal will be to accurately count the population of cities and towns across the nation, officials in Texoma said there is far more at stake than just a simple headcount.
City leaders with the both Sherman and Denison said this week that the results of this year's census can affect a myriad of topics including federal roadway infrastructure to funding for school lunches.
“A lot of people look at the census as a headcount, but it is much more than that,” Sherman Assistant City Manager Terrence Steele said.
For the city of Denison, the 2020 Census could provide the chance to do something it has never done — have a recorded population over 25,000. The city nearly passed the 25,000 mark in the 1970 census with a population of 24,923. However, the city saw a declining population in the 1980s and 1990s that only started to ebb in the 2000s.
In the last five years, Denison has added about 1,200 new units to the city's housing stock. With these new homes, Rex estimated that the city's population has grown by about 3,000 potentially putting it over 26,000 in 2020.
If the city were to pass the 25,000 population mark, it would bring the city into a new size category when it pursues grants. Traditionally, the city has competed with other cities with a population below 25,000. However, the next step up would have it competing with cities between under 50,000-100,000 in population.
Rex said this could be both an advantage and disadvantage to the city. Traditionally, there are more cities that fall into the smaller category, however previously the city has good luck competing with cities smaller than it. In the new category, it would be on the lower end of the scale.
“When we look at grants, we usually don't see much competition because there are so many cities below 5,000 that don't compete,” he said.
Beyond the count itself, Rex said there are other types of data that are extremely important including updated demographics and information on the types of jobs that Denison residents have.
Meanwhile, Sherman officials expect its recorded population to be somewhere between 46,000 and 48,000 once the final numbers are calculated. By comparison, the city was estimated to have a population of 38,521 in 2010, marking a nearly 21 percent increase.
This would put Sherman close to the 50,000 population mark, which comes with its own changes for the city, including a shift in who is responsible for maintaining street lights and infrastructure.
Other potential changes would be based on the current demographics and make up of Sherman's population, Steele said. As an example, the demographics are used to determine how much of the population is under the poverty line for free and reduced school lunch programs. Likewise, WIC and SNAP program funding is based on this data, he said.
Beyond government uses, Steele said the numbers and demographics compiled through the census can have many uses in the private sector. In many cases, manufacturing employers will look at the most recent census data for workforce information when considering locations for new facilities or expansion of existing locations.
Likewise, retail and commercial businesses will look at population data generated during the census when considering new shops and expansion, Steele added.
One of the direct ways that the census could affect the city, will be through it's annual funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Each year, the city receives funding through HUD's Community Development Block Grant program for improvements and projects in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.
With updated demographics from the census, Sherman officials said the neighborhoods in which the city can invest these funds could shift to include new areas, while neighborhoods that were low-income a decade ago may no longer be eligible.
“The demographics of Sherman have changed so much over the past 10 years that we full expect some areas to fall off the map and possibly others will come online,” Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said.
Ahead of the census, representatives with both cities and Grayson County joined together to form a task force dedicated to finding ways to get an accurate count during the census. Among the initiates that is underway is a $85,000 advertising campaign to distribute information about the census process, Steele said.
From a regional standpoint, both cities said future roadway funding is a major priority that hinges on accurate numbers. In June, Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Clay Barnett said the region could lose $7.63 million in roadway funding over the next decade if participating remains at the level it was in 2010.
“I want this board and everyone to understand how important this census is to Grayson County,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said in 2019. “Traditionally, our counts are under counted because of political pressure from the south. The big boys don't want to keep the money and don't want to acknowledge the growth happening in Grayson County.”