Lawrence population makes surprisingly large increase in 2009

Mayor hopes gain in Census numbers signals comeback

Population changes

Population changes for area towns, according to the Census Bureau’s estimates for July 1, 2009.

Baldwin: up 24 people; up 0.5 percent

Basehor: up 169 people; up 4 percent

Eudora: up 28 people; up 0.4 percent

Kansas City: up 978 people; up 0.6 percent

Lawrence: up 1,544 residents; up 1.7 percent

Lecompton: up 2 people; up 0.3 percent

Manhattan: up 662 people; up 1.2 percent

Olathe: up 1,868 people; up 1.5 percent

Overland Park: up 2,306 people; up 1.3 percent

Ottawa: up 18 people; up 0.1 percent

Shawnee: up 696 people; up 1.1 percent

Topeka: up 639 people; up 0.5 percent

Wichita: up 6,348 people; up 1.7 percent

Lawrence’s population made a surprising surge in 2009, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Lawrence added 1,544 residents in 2009, which was good for a 1.7 percent growth rate. That marked the first time since 2005 that the city had grown at a rate greater than 1 percent. According to Census Bureau estimates, the city’s population stood at 92,048 on July 1, 2009.

“This is great news,” Mayor Mike Amyx said.

But it wasn’t necessarily expected. The city’s economy showed signs of suffering in 2009. Sales tax collections in 2009 fell by about 3 percent in Lawrence, their largest decline in recent memory.

Large employers, such as Kansas University and Lawrence public schools, also struggled with budgets, and federal job numbers showed fewer jobs were located in Douglas County than in 2008.

But the housing market did receive a boost in 2009 from a homebuyers tax credit, and local real estate leaders believe the population numbers show that people still find Lawrence attractive.

“We bounced back in the fall with the housing market,” said Rob Hulse, executive officer of the Lawrence Board of Realtors. “I don’t know if I’m surprised about the numbers, but I’m pleased to hear it. It seemed like we had gotten flat for quite a period.”

In 2006 through 2008, the city’s population growth did fall well below its historical average of about 2 percent per year. In 2006, the city grew at 0.5 percent. In 2007 it grew at 0.8 percent, and in 2008 at 0.7 percent.

Amyx said it was important for the city to improve upon those numbers.

“I think it is a must,” Amyx said. “Obviously, we will go up and down some as the economy changes, but it is important to get back to our normal growth trends because we make a lot of infrastructure decisions based on what the population ultimately is going to be.”

When the numbers come in lower than normal, city residents often are asked to pay more than expected. City leaders have been struggling with how to pay for a multimillion dollar expansion of the Clinton Water Treatment Plant, which was made with the expectation of traditional growth levels. City water rates have been under pressure for the last several years as a result.

Amyx hopes some of that is beginning to change.

“I hope we have started to see a comeback,” Amyx said. “I haven’t heard enough yet to say that for sure, but I think this is a positive sign all the way around.”

Numbers from the decennial census, under way now, won’t be available until later.