Fulton County officials doubt census data showing decrease in towns
FULTON COUNTY U.S Census Bureau data show the Glove Cities have had a slight increase in population over the past 10 years while the towns in Fulton County have lost people, which doesn’t make much sense to officials in Fulton County.
Gloversville and the city of Johnstown gained a combined 484 residents, a 2 percent increase from 200. The 10 towns, with a combined population of 31,123, lost a total of 26 residents, or 0.1 percent. Six of the 10 towns lost residents since 2000, while the others made gains.
Some of the towns that increased in population were Broadalbin, up 3.8 percent, 194 additional residents, and Oppenheim, which had the largest percentage increase in the county at 8.5 percent, 150 new residents. Those gains, however, were wiped out by huge losses in Caroga, down 14.4 percent, 202 residents, and Northampton, down 3.3 percent, 90 fewer residents.
Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz said the census bureau numbers make little sense when considering that only five new housing units were built in the two cities since 2000, while there was an increase of 770 housing units in the 10 towns. He said both cities probably have a large unused housing capacity, which could account for how the 484 new residents have been absorbed. Mraz said he suspects the towns were under-counted.
“Generally when you see that size of an increase in housing it corresponds to an increase in population. The vacancy rate probably dropped in the cities, but the data in the towns is harder to explain,” he said.
The town of Johnstown lost 68 residents, 0.9 percent of its population, according to the census bureau. Johnstown Supervisor Jack Wilson doesn’t believe it.
“In all honesty I do not think that’s true. The number of houses that have been built over the last few years; I mean there is way more houses in the town than have gone up than in either of the cities,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the town may have been under-counted by the census. He said some people may have neglected to fill out their census forms, while others may have intentionally refused to do so.
“There are some people who are afraid to turn in any kind of information because there might be a government agency somewhere that can try to use the information against them, but people need to participate in the census. There’s a lot of valuable data that comes out of it,” he said.
Caroga Supervisor James Selmser said he is skeptical of the accuracy of the census data for his town, but provided a possible explanation.
“We have a lot of seasonal residents in the town that, for tax purposes, are now claiming their residency in Florida,” he said. “I haven’t seen any other reason for this other than the grim economy and young people moving away for school and not coming back. I don’t see a lot of vacant houses. Are there two people living on properties where there used to be four or five? I don’t know.”
The census bureau has not yet released detailed demographic information about of the 2010 census figures, so it’s impossible to know what trends may be occurring. The population increase for the city of Johnstown does not appear to have helped boost the number of students at its school district.
At the start of the 2010-11 school year the Greater Johnstown School District had 1,890 students, and as of March the total had dropped to 1,850. School Board President Robert Curtis said his district has seen a steady decline in students over the past decade, but he suspects that could change.
“We do have a slightly larger kindergarten class projected for next year, so there is hope. These things come in cycles and there is no way of knowing what part of the cycle we’re in right now,” he said.
Mraz said overall the census report was positive for Fulton County, showing a total population increase of 458, or 0.8 percent.
“It’s a good report for the county as a whole to see it continue to see some slow but positive growth,” he said.