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Eagle Mountain to Challenge Census for Sales Tax Funds

Eagle Mountain to Challenge Census for Sales Tax Funds

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Eagle Mountain officials are planning to challenge census projections to get the sales tax money they say the booming city needs and deserves.

The city's population as stated in the census and census projections is the basis by which the state distributes a portion of the sales tax income that all cities get, said Eagle Mountain Mayor Don Richardson. The Utah Department of Transportation also uses the census figures when distributing road money and federal grants are based in part on the same figure, he said.

The census projection from 2005 pegs Eagle Mountain's population at 10,343. Richardson said the city's population is at 19,000 or 20,000 now.

"We need to do this to get our fair share," Richardson said. "It is a very proactive thing for the city to go and do, and claim some of the funds we should be getting."

Eagle Mountain currently gets $760,000 a year from the state as its share of sales tax revenue and hopes to as much as double that by challenging the census, said Ifo Pili, management analyst for Eagle Mountain.

But fighting for those funds may be easier said than done.

Accuracy, reality and the federal government may have little in common, said Shawn Eliot, transportation planner with Mountainland Association of Governments, the regional planning authority that must prepare Eagle Mountain's challenge.

Almost every city in Utah County has challenged the census in the past three years, and almost all the challenges were unsuccessful. The previous administration for Eagle Mountain tried to challenge the census, only to discover it would gain little from the effort, Eliot said.

Even if the census were challenged, the city would not be allowed to use current population data when the rest of the state is using 2005 data.

The census projects Eagle Mountain will have a population of 12,000 in 2006, and the census will release its updated and formal projection of that figure in a month or two, Eliot said. That figure will be used for the next round of sales tax portions and grants. Eagle Mountain could choose to challenge that number after it is released, but that would not net the city any more money for at least a year.

The census in the past has allowed cities to pay to have their city canvassed door-to-door again for a new census count. But it's an expensive process and because the next census is only three years away, Eagle Mountain may find itself better off to simply wait, Eliot said.

Pili said the city understands the difficulty of changing its census numbers but would try to get any increase it could. "The worst thing for us to do is to do nothing," Pili said.

------ Information from: The Daily Herald

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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