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Forsyth on board with '10 census
Leaders discuss ways to get message out
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Forsyth County News
Forsyth’s leaders know they can count on each other when it comes to the 2010 U.S. Census.

“It seems like everybody in the room gets it -- how important this is to the community,” said Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans, who led the Forsyth Census Complete Count Steering Committee meeting Thursday. “The better job we do to get that count, the better we are as a community.”

Along with Evans and Linda Baptiste of the U.S. Census Bureau, representatives from county government, the senior center, nonprofit organizations, chamber of commerce, library board and city of Cumming attended the meeting.

Each representative talked about individual needs, goals and what they have already done to promote the importance of filling out their census questionnaire.

“We’re really trying to drive everybody to that census Web site,” said Jodi Gardner, Forsyth County spokeswoman.

The county is also putting census information on utility bills and using its own Web site to provide information.

Scott Morgan, director of Cumming's planning and zoning department, said the city is also using utility bills to communicate with residents about the census. Information was also offered during the Cumming Country Fair & Festival in October, he said.

About four months ago, the city hired Peggy Sanchez to work part-time as a census data specialist. Among her goals is to reach out to the Hispanic population in Forsyth.

“A lot of Latinos don’t know and are afraid of filling out this information,” she said. “We’ve got to assure them that no, we’re not going to give this information to immigration or the police.

“I’m trying to help not only the Latino community, but all families.”

Forsyth’s mail response during the last census was 72 percent. Georgia's 2000 census mail response of 65 percent was 2 percent lower than the national average.

For every 1 percent of the population that doesn't respond to the mailed questionnaires, it costs about $2.7 million to track down their responses in other ways.

The information compiled from the census is used for multiple purposes, including dispersing federal funding and redistricting of congressional seats.  

“Georgia got at least two [congressional] seats because of redistricting,” said Baptiste. “We’re talking about $400 billion over 10 years in federal funding.”

Jennifer Caracciolo, school system spokeswoman, said she has been taking national census information and “customizing it to our local stakeholders.”

Using parent communication methods and social media outlets like Facebook, Caracciolo said parents within the school system are well-informed.

She encouraged others at the meeting to review the Facebook page for any missing information.

“If you send it to me, we’ll post it,” she said.

Other communications ideas included putting fliers in books borrowed from the library, asking businesses to post signs at their offices and having information available at community events like Saturday’s senior expo and upcoming kindergarten registration days.

Baptiste said the most difficult group to get on board with providing census information are religious organizations. She encouraged the group to reach out to the faith-based population.

With full participation, Baptiste said, schools could be trailer-free, hospitals could reduce wait times, new roads could be built and communities could get needed federal help.

“These surveys last for 10 years, so they won’t get money for 10 years,” she said. “Everybody ... can be a part of this process.”