Census: Southampton, Franklin populations declined

Published 10:36 am Monday, April 3, 2017

Southampton County and the city of Franklin have both experienced slight population decreases since 2010 according to data gathered in 2016 by the U.S. Census Bureau, which was made available to the public on March 23.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent population statistics for Southampton County estimate that the county’s total population has decreased by approximately 2.8 percent since 2010. The Bureau estimated the total population of Southampton County in 2016 to be 18,057, down from 18,109 in 2015 and 18,570 in 2010.

Southampton’s Board of Supervisors chairman Dallas Jones said that the decrease in population throughout the county could mean less money overall for the county government and the school system because there would be fewer taxpayers. He added that Southampton Schools Supt. Dr. Gwen Shannon reported at the last board meeting that the division’s total student population had also shown a decrease from last year.

Beth Lewis, the director of planning and zoning for Franklin and Southampton County, said that the decrease in population in the county fits with a nationwide trend of people leaving rural areas for more urban settings. She added that the population increases or decreases reported in the census work by simply totaling the population without taking into account what, if any, impact those people or lack thereof would have on the county’s total revenue.

“The census includes people in nursing homes, people in the correctional system, so it’s not possible to make any evaluation just by counting heads,” she said. “The reduction of the population as reported by the census includes people who are not typically thought of as county residents. I don’t know that either of those would affect the county’s budget. Just knowing raw numbers doesn’t tell you very much.”

Data for the city of Franklin for 2016 estimates the city’s current population to be around 8,306, down from its 2015 estimate of 8,387 and 3.3 percent lower than the Bureau’s 2010 estimate of 8,593.

Data for Isle of Wight County, on the other hand, shows a 3.7 percent population increase last year, compared to 2010. In 2016, the Census Bureau estimated Isle of Wight’s population to be 36,596, up from its 2015 estimate of 36,314 and its 2010 estimate of 35,274.

City Manager R. Randy Martin said he wasn’t surprised to see the reported decrease in Franklin’s population and that the percent reduction may even be a conservative number. He added that Franklin’s schools have likewise seen declining enrollment over the last five years, although the decrease has flattened out somewhat this year.

He does not expect the decrease to affect the city’s allotted state and federal funding, nor that of the schools because a majority of that funding is tied to actual documented populations, not projections, and added that the city does not rely heavily on those numbers for the bulk of its revenue. The actual count that translates into adjustments in state and federal funding for schools was calculated and sent in this Friday.

“If the trend holds through the end of the decade, that would have some more implications,” he said.

Don Robertson, assistant county administrator for Isle of Wight, was also not surprised to learn that his locality’s population had grown.

“We obviously have experienced some growth over the past decade or so; we’ve seen other data that suggests we’re the second fastest growing community in Hampton Roads,” he said. “One of the things we’ve been seeing for a while now is that we are aging as a community, but the growth does not surprise me.”

According to the Census Bureau, county population estimates are calculated using an administrative records-based cohort-component approach, or ADREC, which pulls data from administrative records such as registered births and deaths, federal income tax returns, Medicare enrollees and data from their American Community Survey. The data is then fed into a formula that starts with the last base population estimate for a county, plus births, minus deaths, plus net international migration, plus net domestic migration.

The accuracy of the resulting figures is dependent upon the accuracy of all the component data sources.

The Census Bureau estimates that the total population of Virginia was around 8,411,808 as of July 2016, up 5.1 percent from their April 2010 estimate of 8,001,041.