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Published: Wednesday, 8/25/2004

Fulton County: Income study clashes with census data

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FAYETTE - A household-income survey shows major differences between its figures and those contained in the 2000 U.S. Census, officials told Fulton County commissioners during an annual meeting in Fayette.

The new numbers could increase the village's eligibility for grants or other financial assistance for local projects, officials said.

Village Administrator Tom Spiess said there are significant errors in the Census figures, and that Fayette residents should be "upset beyond measure" with the inaccurate data. The household-income survey was conducted after village officials received permission from the Ohio Department of Development to do it.

Local officials wanted to resurvey residents because they questioned the accuracy of the 2000 Census figures that showed the village's median household income jumped from $21,900 to $32,115 from 1990 to 2000. During that time, the village experienced the loss of hundreds of jobs and a significant reduction in the village's withholding tax revenues.

The recent household-income survey, conducted on the village's behalf by the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program, showed the median household income was $25,750 rather than $32,115 as reported in the Census.

Results of the survey are more accurate, local officials said, be-

cause more people responded to the survey than the Census. Two mailings were sent out to obtain information from residents for the household-income survey, said Roberta Acosta with the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program, and then follow-ups were done door-to-door.

Figures in the Census report could be skewed because only 38 percent of the residents in Fayette responded to the Census survey, officials said.

The household-income survey showed that 69 percent of the village's residents are in the low to moderate-income range, compared with 48 percent according to the Census numbers.

With the higher percentage, the village could be eligible for grants or other financial assistance for projects.

Results of the local survey won't replace the official Census figures, which means the village will have to find ways to get the word out about the accurate numbers.

Fayette has been struggling to deal with its economic environment for several years. After the village lost three-fourths of its jobs when its largest employer, Fayette Tubular Products, Inc. closed in 1998, the Ohio Department of Development identified it as a "situational distressed" area. That label, officials said, has been changed to "priority investment" area.

Councilman James Heath asked that when commissioners have contact with federal legislators and their staff members, that they remind them of the importance of conducting a thorough Census.



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