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Will Alexandria hit 13,000?

Echo Press photo by Celeste Beam Alexandria's population stands at 12,415, according to the state's latest projections from April 2008.

Just how important are the census numbers?

Alexandria - and taxpayers - are still directly feeling the effects of the 2000 census.

The city has lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because its population back in 2000 was pegged at 8,820 - 1,180 people short of the 10,000 mark it needed to hit to be considered a regional center.

The state gives regional center cities more local government aid (LGA), believing that those cities deserve more money because they provide additional services to a wider area.

So although Alexandria grew nearly 10 percent between 1990 and 2000, and has since breezed past the 10,000 mark, it still doesn't receive as much LGA as other similar-sized cities because the formula is still based on the 2000 count. At a previous city council meeting, Alexandria Mayor Dan Ness said the city lost about $334,000 in LGA each year since 2003 because of it.

City leaders are expecting another big surge in population for the 2010 census.

The latest population projections from the state demographer's office estimated Alexandria's population at 12,415, in April 2008.

That projection, however, didn't include the "phase 3" annexation area in Alexandria Township that has since came into the city and added about 600 residents, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

In its comprehensive plan, the city estimated its 2010 population at 12,969 and Weber said city leaders are hoping that the final tally will surpass 13,000.

City officials want to make sure that every resident is counted.

"We're involved with the Census Bureau and the state Department of Administration to promote a complete count," Weber said.

The city, for instance, is participating in the 2010 Census new construction program by reviewing new apartment buildings and newly platted subdivisions to make sure the Census Bureau has accurate, up-to-date addresses to mail the census forms.

Besides increased state aid and a more alluring demographic base for prospective businesses, a growing population can also give the region more political clout, according to city leaders.

Population counts are used to determine political jurisdictions.

"It's important that we have a good complete count in Douglas County and the city of Alexandria because we're on the very cusp of losing a congressional seat," Weber said. "In fact, we're within about 3,000 people of losing one of our congressional seats, so it's important to make sure everyone is counted. We can't afford to give up any of our political clout in the long term."

In the last census, Alexandria and other growing cities in the county helped boost Douglas County's population to 32,821 - a 14.5 percent increase from 1990 and 17.9 percent more than 1980's total.

Of the 87 counties in the state, Douglas Count ranked 21st for the highest percentage increase in population between 1990 and 2000.