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Special census shows Morrisville has more people than 2014 estimate

Mayor Mark Stohlman, flanked by the Morrisville Town Council and parks staff, addresses the crowd at Northwest Park. The public park, at the edge of the Breckenridge neighborhood, has been in the works for a decade.
Mayor Mark Stohlman, flanked by the Morrisville Town Council and parks staff, addresses the crowd at Northwest Park. The public park, at the edge of the Breckenridge neighborhood, has been in the works for a decade. Raleigh

The town’s investment of $510,000 to conduct a special census has paid off, with a recount discovering several thousand more people living in Morrisville than previously estimated.

The special census counted 23,699 residents, the town announced Thursday. That’s a 14 percent increase from the state’s 2014 projection of 20,753 residents.

Morrisville now will be eligible to receive more money from state appropriations that are based on per-capita formulas. That includes general revenue from taxes as well as specific funding for roads.

“This additional tax revenue helps the town continue to provide community services and amenities that residents expect,” Morrisville Town Manager Martha Paige said in a news release.

The last national census was in 2010, and the next one will be in 2020. In the interim, growth formulas determine the population estimates for any given area.

But Morrisville officials thought the formulas underestimated how many people are moving in to their town.

Four dozen census workers canvassed the area this summer, counting people door-to-door. Officials learned that town and U.S. Census estimates also were off by several hundred residents.

Council member Michael Schlink first raised the idea of a special census last year. He said it’s important because the town lost $800,000 in revenue from the 2014 statewide elimination of business privilege taxes. And an ongoing debate in the General Assembly over redistributing more state sales tax income to rural counties could cost Morrisville $950,000 or more if approved.

Schlink said the census should pay for itself within the year, depending on what the legislature decides to do with the sales tax.

“And certainly it was fortuitous of us to do this,” he said. “Because it looks like the town is going to get hit, probably.”

Mayor Mark Stohlman took a more long-term view. He said the census will pay for itself within a year and half.

Stohlman said he expects the town will now receive an extra $350,000 to $400,000 a year, and the money should start coming in this fiscal year.

A penny on the town’s property tax rate of 41 cents per $100 valuation is equivalent to about $380,000. That means Morrisville’s budget will benefit from the equivalent of an extra cent’s worth of property tax revenues without an actual tax increase.

Millions of dollars of state tax dollars are given out to towns every year based on their population. Sales taxes are distributed partially based on population, as are taxes on alcohol.

The N.C. Department of Transportation also uses population counts to allocate anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of funding for highway projects, based on the type of work.

Stohlman said Morrisville needs to address the town’s heavily congested roads, although he didn’t name any specific projects that could be started, moved up or improved upon with some of the incoming funds.

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran

Population estimates

Tracking population growth can be tricky. In Morrisville’s case, three government entities had different estimates for the town’s population. None were correct, according to the special census.

Special census count: 23,699 residents

Previous Morrisville estimate: 23,000 (off by 3 percent)

Previous N.C. estimate: 20,753 (off by 14 percent)

Previous U.S. Census estimate: 22,772 (off by 4 percent)

Source: Town of Morrisville, U.S. Census Bureau

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