Washington County could lose $1.9 million after 2010 census

Whenever I get a hold of a USA Today, I always flip to a section called “Across the USA,” where little nuggets of news are gathered from every state.

Well, in last week’s Tuesday’s edition, the news bite from Arkansas went a little something like this: Washington County could lose $1.9 million after the 2010 census, after a population projection showed that cities have grown more than unincorporated areas.

1.9 million dollars? Sounds serious. So, I looked into it a bit more and found an article from The Morning News that describes the decrease in revenue in more depth.

Still, I was a little fuzzy on the details, so Jeff Hawkins, director of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission helped explain.

When the state divvies up the money acquired from the county tax, it goes to areas that have seen the most growth. In Washington County, cities have grown more than the unincorporated areas of the county. Thus, more money will be going to city governments, as opposed to the county.

“The likely $1.9 million reduction is not because the overall revenue from the 1 percent county sales tax is expected to decrease,” Hawkins said in an email. Rather, the money will be redistributed among cities that have experienced more growth.

Much of the population shift is because some of the county’s property has “gone urban” said Washington County Judge Marilyn Edwards. When parts of the county are annexed to cities, the county loses a portion of that tax revenue. The tax revenue that the county receives is applied to county roads, jails and courts, among other expenses.

“This is strictly a projection,” Edwards said. “I don’t want people to panic.”

Currently, Fayetteville draws about 36.8 percent of the county tax. Because of Fayetteville’s population growth, that take might go up to 37.67 percent, depending on the actual findings of the 2010 census.

The Census Bureau estimates that of all the population growth across Arkansas’ 75 counties, about 55 percent has taken place in Washington and Benton County, Hawkins said.

Mary Robbins is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Mary declared Fayetteville as her hometown upon moving here for college. She is a Journalism graduate who enjoys live music, the outdoors and attending city council meetings. For more of Mary’s contributions, visit her author page.