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Make every Utahn count

The U.S. Census Bureau's mid-term report card is out, and it isn't good. Nationwide, only 42 percent of the questionnaires have been returned thus far. The Beehive State fared slightly better, with 47 percent of households returning the forms. While that's on the high end of the state-to-state comparison, it also means that 53 percent of Utah households have not yet complied.

By now, all Utahns have received their census forms. Some households even have received a reminder card from the Census Bureau. It's time to take a few minutes, fill it out and pop it in a mailbox.In doing so, Utahns will not only do their civic duty, they will help ensure that Utah receives its fair share of federal funds. Since the Census Bureau is prohibited under law from releasing any personal information from this count -- including information about illegal immigrants -- the process provides adequate safeguards for those concerned about their privacy.

The primary purpose of decennial census is to determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the information also is used to plan new school construction, public transportation systems and management of health-care services.

Cities are particularly interested in the counts. Population could affect their bond rates. Only "first-class" cities can use redevelopment tax increment funds to build recreation and cultural facilities. In Utah, only Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Provo and Sandy have first-class status.

Nationwide, ethnic minorities were undercounted in the 1990 Census. Census forms have been streamlined since then, which should alleviate some of the problem.

Another significant problem was the undercount of children. In children-rich Utah, nearly 16,000 children were undercounted in the last decennial census. That poses a problem for school districts attempting to plan for future facilities and employment levels. It reduces the amount of federal funds available for social services, foster care, adoption services, child-care development, applied technology education and health care. If adequate federal funds are not available for these purposes, available funding must be supplemented by state funding, and services may be cut or even eliminated.

A lot is at stake here, and Utahns can do their part by simply filling out a form. For those who have taken a few minutes to fill out their census forms, good work. To the thousands of households yet to complete the task, please do so as soon as possible.