The recently released 2010 census figures brought the city of Maricopa into much sharper focus, providing current population numbers, demographic information, home vacancy rates and more, revealing just how much the city has changed in recent years. Besides providing a look back at what has happened since 2000, the new numbers will help define the city over the next 10 years.

“No matter what happens in the next two to 10 years, we will always return to these numbers to define the city of Maricopa,” said Paul Jepson, assistant to the city manager.

Economic development impact
Economic Development Director Danielle Casey spends her days pursuing business development leads and answering questions from companies considering a move to Maricopa. However, she said it is the questions she is not able to answer that sometimes have the most impact on development in the city.

“Prior to the release of the census numbers, if a company went online to do research about Maricopa, they would find a city with a population of around 15,000,” she said. “That low number is enough on its own to dissuade many companies from further investigating the city.”

Now, with an official population of more than 43,000, Casey said the city could see an increase in interest from companies looking to open new facilities. “This will hopefully give us a chance to answer questions we were not able to before.”

Besides losing companies that dismissed the city early in the relocation process, Casey said the lack of accurate, up-to-date demographic numbers made it difficult to explain the city’s population to companies considering Maricopa as a possible location.

“There was just no database out there that correctly calculated the city’s growth,” she said. “All of the studies underestimated our population. Now that we have the census figures, we are ready to ramp up our marketing.”

In addition to encouraging companies to move to Maricopa to take advantage of a large, well-educated workforce, having more people counted in the city means more retail establishments are likely to open as well, to serve the growing population.

More state revenue
Besides the eventual increase in tax revenue likely from new retail outlets and other businesses locating in the city, the census figures will have a positive fiscal impact on both the city and school district budgets in the next two years.

The state distributes shared revenue to cities based on population; these revenues consist of money collected in state sales, property, income and gas taxes. While Maricopa in recent years has been sending in sales, property and income taxes from 40,000 or so people, it has only been getting back a share of revenue calculated for a city of 15,000.

According to the city, the increase in money received from the state could approach $5 million in general fund revenues annually.

General fund revenues are not restricted to a specific purpose, but are used for a wide range of city expenses. This fiscal year, the city expects about $25 million in general fund revenues, with $3.7 million coming from shared revenues.

The increase in state funds should hit the city’s books in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“It is exciting to think about, but this is a rough number so we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Assistant City Manager Roger Kolman.

Kolman said caution is due because the state has not set its budget for the next fiscal year and cuts in shared revenue are possible.

Tom Belshe, deputy director of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, agreed cities have reason for caution but said the only budget he has seen at the legislature this year does not touch state shared revenues.

“The city of Maricopa should see a significant gain in revenue as a result of these numbers,” he said.

In addition to pulling in more state revenue, Jepson said the increase in population should make the city more competitive in securing grants.

Good news for MUSD, too
According to Maricopa Unified School District Business Manager Aron Rausch, MUSD could gain more than a million dollars in combined Title I and IDEA funds from the federal government thanks to the more accurate census count.

Title I funds are provided to help bridge the educational achievement gap between low-income and other students. IDEA monies help offset the increased cost of educating children with special needs.

Both funds are distributed partially based on the community’s population. The school district currently receives just under $1 million combined from the two programs.

“We don’t know what our increase is going to be yet, but we expect it will at least double,” Rausch said. “It is all subject to the federal budget.”

Regardless of the size of increase, the money will be welcome to a school district that has focused so much on slashing its budget the last two years and is preparing for more cuts in the coming year, according to Superintendent Jeff Kleck.

Submitted photo

This article previously appeared in InMaricopa News.

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