PROVO — A population estimate off by 82 people may not make much difference in a city the size of Provo, but it's a pretty significant miscalculation for Cedar Fort.

The northwest Utah County town is one of three small municipalities being encouraged by the Mountainland Association of Governments to challenge the U.S. Census Bureau's 2005 population estimates.

Data compiled by MAG using building permits indicate the populations of Cedar Fort, Goshen and Vineyard have been underestimated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

MAG already has helped five Utah County cities win census challenges this year in an effort to ensure proper distribution of funding for federal programs and state tax dollars.

American Fork was the big winner, gaining nearly 3,800 to its estimated population following the challenge. Provo, Mapleton, Salem and Elk Ridge also saw their respective Census Bureau estimates rise.

The numbers may be smaller in Cedar Fort, Goshen and Vineyard, but the discrepancy in estimates by the Census Bureau and MAG are greatest in those three towns, said Shawn Eliot, MAG transportation planner.

"(A challenge) probably could help them because every little bit will help towns that size," Eliot said.

Cedar Fort officials are discussing a possible challenge of the Census Bureau's population estimate, which at 338 is 19.5 percent lower than MAG's estimate of 420.

Goshen Mayor Dorothy Sprague also has expressed interest in challenging the numbers in her town. The Census Bureau's 2005 population estimate for Goshen, at 775, is 16.6 percent lower than MAG's calculation of 930.

MAG's data show the estimated population of Vineyard off by 15.3 percent — a difference of 23 people. Town clerk Dan Wright said Vineyard has no plans to challenge the numbers.

The U.S. Census Bureau takes an official head count every 10 years and then bases annual estimates for the remainder of the decade on that count.

Utah County's high population of students makes it difficult for the Census Bureau to estimate the actual population, Eliot said.

"We have to continually work with the Census Bureau through this method of challenging to keep our numbers up closer to what they ought to be," he said.

Funding for federal programs and state tax distributions are based on the annual Census Bureau estimates, Eliot said.

"That's why we're trying to stay on top of it," he said.

This year's successful challenges of population estimates by Utah County cities and towns have not changed the county's population, Eliot said, though a revision is likely in the spring.

The Census Bureau estimates the county's population at 443,738, and MAG has it at 451,041 — a difference of 7,303 or 1.6 percent.

Most Utah County municipalities have filed challenges at some point since the 2000 Census.


E-mail: jpage@desnews.com