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"Census numbers to bring falloutThe effects will be political and financial, officials say."

"By the end of the month - possibly even by the end of the week - the Census Bureau will disclose how many of us it counted as of April 1, 2000.The city's population figure, a matter of considerable debate, will trigger a broad range of consequences.Some of those consequences are political. The national and state legislative districts will be redrawn, as will the Kitsap County Commission districts. Some are matters of policy, especially the ongoing debate about whether island growth can or should be curtailed. Other consequences are strictly financial, both positive and negative.Depending on the numbers, it probably means more revenue, city Finance Director Ralph Eells said. But it may also mean more responsibility.The island's population, which stood at 15,846 in the 1990 census, has been the subject of considerable discussion and debate in the intervening years.The state Office of Financial Management, which keeps score for budget and planning purposes, has a prescribed method for making interim estimates. Using OFM methodology, the estimated population at present is 20,150.But Eells has long questioned that number.Using drivers' license and school-enrollment information, Eells projects a considerably higher population - more like 24,000 or even higher.From a financial point of view, the two magic numbers are 19,174 and 22,500. The first number, which nearly everyone believes the island has exceeded, would represent a 21 percent population increase on the island during the decade - the same rate as statewide growth.Several streams of state revenue, notably gas taxes and liquor proceeds, are distributed an a strict per-person basis.If Bainbridge grew faster than the state as a whole, its share of the pie will increase. If not, it will decrease.These are not big number, Eells said. It may make thousands or tens of thousands of dollars difference, but not hundreds of thousands.A potentially big financial benefit could come in the area of sales-tax equalization. The law subsidizes cities like Bainbridge that have low sales-tax receipts per capita.That fund, though, came principally from the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, repealed first by voter passage of I-695, then by legislative action. And while the last Legislature continued the equalization payments, it scaled back the amount considerably.The law is still on the books, Eells said, so the potential is there.Because the fund is based on per-capita tax collections, Eells said that gains in population make a much greater difference than with money allotted on a per-capita basis.There is a leverage factor at work, he said. If our population turns out to be 20,000, the state theoretically owes us about $1 million a year. If it's 24,000, it owes us about $2 million. Whether we ever get the money is another question.The 22,500 figure represents one of the down-sides of growth. That's the number at which, under state law, a city must maintain the state highways within its boundaries. And that would mean the city would take over much of the responsibility for Highway 305.While the state would still be responsible for basic construction and maintenance, the city would take on the job of maintaining slope stability, culverts and ditches, guardrails, marking and striping, traffic signals, snow removal and parking enforcement.The additional money we would get would probably be just about enough to pay for the extra work, Eells said. "

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