Population-losing Rocky Mountain House won’t conduct a census this year.
Town council was considering whether it was worth it to update its population numbers after last year’s federal census counted 6,635, down from the 6,933 recorded in the 2011 federal census, and well below the town’s 2015 count of 7,220.
Having an accurate population count is important for municipalities because a number of provincial and federal grants are doled out on a per capita basis.
The question for council was whether the $15,000 cost of undertaking a municipal census this year was worth it.
Lynn Webster, town director of corporate services, said after crunching the numbers staff determined the loss of population will cost the town about $9,000 in grant funding.
However, since Parkland Regional Library requisitions based on per capita, the town saves $4,500 there.
“At the end of the day, council advised it’s really not clear if we’re going to have a much greater return on our investment or not,” said Webster.
“Because the municipality can choose to do a census any year they want they decided not to spend the $15,000 this year and just go with the federal census.”
A municipal census would likely have turned up a few more residents than the federal count.
Webster said municipalities tend to do more detailed counts by going to door to door and other methods to nail down the numbers as closely as possible.
Whatever the actual number, Rocky has clearly felt the effects of the two-year oil and gas downturn.
“It’s an oil and gas kind of town. With the economy, we’ve had an increase in vacancy rates and people have left.
“There’s no doubt we will have less than we had before, but what that number is — it’s unclear.”
Town and council will be keeping an eye on the economy and if it continues to improve as expected the question of whether to update the count will be considered again.