Orange County residents returned their census reports at a rate of 68 percent this year, a number that is four points higher than the state average and one point higher than the national average. The county had a 66 percent return rate in the 1990 census.
Daniel Newman, a former Orange County Board of Commissioners intern, coordinated the efforts of the Orange County Complete Count Committee. He said he credits the increase to the committee's efforts. "I think we had an excellent committee and excellent leadership on the committee," he said.
The committee was composed of a cultural cross section of society, including Hispanic, black and Asian members. Representatives of the University, Orange County school systems, area religious communities, the media, nonprofit organizations, county municipalities and the Census Bureau also comprised the team, Newman said.
The committee displayed banners encouraging people to return them, as well as distributed T-shirts and placed public service announcements in local papers.
But what this increase means for Orange County is still unclear.
Buck Tredway, information specialist with the commissioners, said the impact on the county would not be known until after the final numbers of the census are turned in by the Census Bureau.
According to the Census Bureau's Web site, the final count will be delivered to the president nine months after census day, on or before Dec. 31, 2000.
Orange County could receive an increase in federal funding as a result of the improved census returns, but that is not assured. Federal funding for states and counties is determined by population, based on census returns. Tredway said what is assured is that the increase reflects well on the county. Financial compensation was not the county's ultimate goal, Tredway said. Instead, just getting people to return the census forms was the focus of the committee.
In addition to crediting the committee for the increased return rate, Newman also praised the residents of Orange County. "Chapel Hill and Carrboro and Orange County tend to be more educated areas, and tend to see the benefit of an accurate count."