- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Local officials said they would challenge newly released U.S. census figures that indicated Baltimore's population dropped 2.4 percent in the 15 months between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 2001.
The Census Bureau estimated that the city's population during that span was 635,210, a loss of 15,944 residents. The loss rate roughly 1,000 people a month was higher than the city's average loss rate during the 1990s, when Baltimore lost a national high of 84,860 residents.
Baltimore had 2,053 more births than deaths and 1,445 more residents through international immigration during those 15 months. However, 19,790 residents moved out of the city during that time, giving Baltimore a net decline of 15,944.
The census estimates are based on births, deaths, immigration and movement between jurisdictions based on information supplied by the Internal Revenue Service.
Mayor Martin O'Malley says the estimates are exaggerated. He points to recent increases in taxes related to real-estate transactions, marginal decreases in school enrollment and projections by several state, regional and local planners that the population will increase by the middle of the decade.
"To let that estimate go unchallenged does damage to the progress we've been making," he said.
One of the planners was the state Department of Planning. Kristen Forsyth, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the Census Bureau could have overestimated the city's loss, but that the difference might not be enough to change the downward trend.
Signe I. Wetrogan, an assistant division chief in the U.S. Census Bureau's population division, said there was some uncertainty in the first post-census 2000 estimates for more than 3,000 jurisdictions nationwide.
"We feel the estimates are for the most part reliable," she said. "[But] they are not our once-every-10-year count. They are estimates."
Census officials say a corrected estimate will be issued if necessary.
Baltimore is the only jurisdiction to announce that it will challenge the estimates, Census Bureau spokesman Robert Bernstein said. The numbers were released on April 29.


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