April 2, 2011
Population shifts to urban areas
Census shows growth in more developed areas, reversing prior trend
The 2010 census indicates the county’s population has started to shift back to the more urban areas of the county.
“In the past censuses it seemed like there has been a shift from the urban to the rural portions,” said Dan Dineen, the Cortland County Planning Department director. “Now it seems like it’s the opposite.”
Dineen said Cortlandville and Homer have seen a growth in population, mostly due to an increase in housing developments.
Cortlandville saw a 1.7 percent drop from 1990 to 2000, but gained that back and more in 2010. The town is now up to 8,509 people, a 5.6 percent increase since 1990.
Cortland has seen some new developments, but nothing substantial, since there is little room in the city for new developments.
“Cortland is fairly built out,” Dineen said. “There have been some small apartment facilities that have been built in the past 10 years, but nothing substantial.”
There was a 1.5 percent overall decrease in housing units in the city, to 7,433 in 2010, but the percentage of occupied units increased from 91.7 percent to 93.4 percent. The number of vacant housing units decreased 22.5 percent, to 487.
The city population has remained steady since about 1960, with its highest point being 20,138 in 1980 and its lowest point being 18,740 in 2000, according to census counts taken every decade. The population rebounded to 19,204 in the recently announced 2010 census results, a 2.5 percent increase from 2000.
Cortland Mayor Susan Feiszli said the increase in the population was a positive sign for the city and the county.
She said it was too early to speculate on what the implications will be for the city or what was driving the population increases.
Cortland County’s population increased by 1.5 percent — from 48,599 in 2000 to a record high of 49,366 in 2010. Its largest population was previously 48,963 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau.
The census affects the amount of state and federal funding a municipality receives. Since the county is under the 50,000 mark, it is classified as rural — making it ineligible for funding set aside for suburban counties.
Dineen said last week the primary purpose of the census was for reapportionment, which affects representation in federal, state, county and city governments.
Although county legislative districts outside the city have not been redrawn since their creation in the 1970s, the city of Cortland’s districts have been modified with every census. The other legislative districts have only modified their number of weighted votes based on past census data.
Typically, city ward boundaries mirror the county Legislative boundaries in the city, said Dineen.
The goal of redistricting is to make the population of each district more equal, even if that means splitting some of the towns.
Dineen said in January it would take him a couple of weeks to map out various redistricting scenarios and present them to the Legislature. The Legislature would then pick one of the choices, although any change would ultimately come to the voters as a referendum.
Virgil is also benefiting from new housing, which Dineen suggested could be from the recent expansions at the Greek Peak Mountain Resort and Hope Lake Lodge and Indoor Waterpark.
Virgil has seen a steady gain in its population over the last 20 years — up about 10.5 percent to about 2,400 people.
The biggest population gain based on percentage in the 2010 census was the town of Lapeer at 11.8 percent — up 81 residents to 767 total. Dineen said a recent influx of Amish residents is the likely cause for the increase.
Lapeer has seen over a 25 percent increase in its population since 1990.
Dineen said he was surprised by the population drop in Preble. Despite a small gain in 2000, the town has lost almost 12 percent of its population in 2010.
Preble Supervisor James Doring said he was surprised to read the Census numbers saying Preble lost 189 people during the last 10 years.
He said one reason for the population drop might be young people leaving the area for employment opportunities outside of Central New York.
“There’s not a lot of high-paying jobs,” Doring said. “There’s some jobs, but not high-paying jobs.”
He said Preble’s population has been “stagnant but steady” over the last 150 years. He said overall Preble is “not a whole lot different than it was 10 years ago. ... It’s not a boomtown and it’s not a depressed town either.”
The three Cortland County villages also seem to have taken a hit in population, particularly in Marathon. Over the past 20 years, the population in the village of Marathon has decreased almost 17 percent from 1,107 residents in 1990 to 919 in 2010. In 2000, the population dropped to 1,063, down 4 percent, then in 2010 it dropped to 919, down another 13.5 percent.
The village of Marathon figures are included in the overall town of Marathon numbers, which saw a 10.1 percent population decrease in the last 10 years to 1,967 people.
Village Mayor John Pitman said he did not know exactly why the population was dropping. He said he was hopeful it would increase in the next few years.
“Having a smaller population just slows everything down,” Pitman said. “It slows the economy down and slows the small businesses down.”
Pitman said he was not sure what the population drop would mean for Marathon, or how the town and village could curtail the population loss.
“It’s not good,” Pitman said of the population decrease. “All we can do is hope for a comeback.”
Marathon Superintendent of Schools Tim Turecek said the school district has felt the population decrease through declining enrollments.
Since 2005, enrollment in the school district has decreased by 162 students, from 975 in 2005-06 students to 813 students in 2010-11.
He said the district will need to cut about 9.5 positions this year, partly because of the declining enrollment. The district has also cut bus runs and support staff because of fewer students. He said the declining enrollments limit scheduling options and the number of sections of classes the district can offer.
“We are dealing with, over the last 10 years, a pretty significant drop at times,” Turecek said.
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