Budgets, not Census numbers, bigger concern for those seeking grant funds
April 9, 2011 at 10 p.m.
Updated April 9, 2011 at 11:10 p.m.
The future of the amount of federal block grant funds available to local communities may be uncertain, but area officials think budget woes and not 2010 Census numbers are the bigger concern.
The main grant that could be affected by the Census is the Community Development Block Grant, a federally funded program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It uses population numbers and other demographics in its funding formula.
In 2010, the city used $400,000 in block grant funds to jump start construction of the Mid-Coast Family Services women's crisis center. It has also awarded grants to other public service agencies and projects.
John Kaminski, director of development services for the city of Victoria, said the impact of the Census is unknown at this point.
"My overall opinion or prediction is that the Census will have some impact, but we won't know what it is for awhile," he said.
Part of the concern is that areas with large metropolitan populations - Travis County, Harris County, Bexar County - that saw a substantially larger growth in the 2010 Census may dictate changes in legislative district lines that could in turn affect federal grant funds.
Victoria County grew only 3.22 percent, compared to 26.1 percent in Travis County, 23.11 percent in Bexar County and 20.35 in Harris County.
"Another dynamic is the trend of population moving to larger population centers," Kaminski said. "That obviously has an impact on those grant funds. As their population grows faster than ours, they'll get a bigger piece of the pie."
Victoria's block grant allocation went from $1,000,600 in 2001 to $783,000 in 2002, when the 2000 Census numbers were applied, said Jared Mayfield, the city's deputy director of development services.
MORE DATA NEEDED
Kaminski noted that all the 2010 Census data is not in yet and factors such as poverty level, household income and other demographics also figure into the block grant funding.
"It's still up in the air. It will be awhile before we know how the Census will impact our grants," he said.
Calhoun County Judge Mike Pfeifer, whose county grew 3.55 percent according to the 2010 Census, said he doesn't anticipate much effect.
"I don't think there will be much change," he said. "There is a lot more that goes into a grant other than population.
Smaller counties in the Crossroads region experienced growth similar to Victoria County or declines in population.
Joe Brannan, executive director of the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, agreed that the community development block grant is the one grant that could be most affected by the Census.
The planning commission goes grant work for seven counties and 16 cities in the region.
"Almost everything we get, with the exception of transit funds, comes through the state," Brannan said. "We haven't seen anything yet as of yet as far as individual communities or agencies being affected."
Both Brannan and Kaminski see budget woes at the federal and state levels as areas of greater concern than the Census.
"The bigger issue that will affect grant funds is the federal budget," Kaminski said. "The bottom line is that future allocations are affected by the federal budget process. If they cut the overall program, allocations are going to go down."
Brannan, too, emphasized keeping an eye on the budgets.
"We're way more concerned with the affect of the state and federal budgets than the affect of the Census," he said. "A lot of federal funds that go to larger cities come off the top. If a city is under 50,000 in population, those block grants come from a different pool of funds."
Cities, too, may have to deal with less available money.
"The one thing our grant writers are saying is that with all of the cuts at the federal and state level, there is not going to be as much money there for grants," said Raymie Zella, Cuero city manager.