By Joe Earle

The rate at which Brookhaven residents respond to the U.S. Census appears to depend on where they live.

Residents of some parts of Brookhaven lag behind other Georgians in the rate they are participating in the U.S. Census, but other neighborhoods post higher participation rates than Georgia or the U.S. as a whole, according to figures posted April 6 on a census Web site that tracks rates of return for census forms.

Neighborhoods around Oglethorpe University and Murphey Candler Park posted a 63 percent participation rate for census forms, according to the Web site. But neighborhoods along Buford Highway near I-85 had posted rates of 40 to 45 percent.

Areas between those neighborhoods, including communities around Dresden Drive and Blackburn Park, had participation rates of 56 and 57 percent.

In comparison, the overall participation rate for the state of Georgia was 57 percent on April 6, the census reported. The national rate was 60 percent.

The rate is computed as a percentage of the census forms mailed out to an area that have been filled out and returned, the census Web site said. The Census Bureau developed the figure this year to reflect participation in the census during a time when many areas have vacant housing because of the poor economy. The participating rate does not include forms returned to the Census Bureau as “undeliverable” by the U.S. Post Office, the Web site said.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood has challenged mayors of other north Fulton County cities to a dinner out over which city would have the highest rate of participation, Sandy Springs officials said. As of April 6, 60 percent of Roswell’s residents had sent in forms, as had 56 percent of Alpharetta’s residents, 63 percent of Johns Creek’s residents and 60 percent of Milton’s residents. Sandy Springs trailed the pack with a 51 percent participation rate.

On April 5, Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos called for residents to reply promptly to the census in order to make sure the city receives its proper share of sales taxes, which are allocated by a formula that takes population into account.

“It is vital to the fiscal health of our city that everyone in Sandy Springs promptly responds to the 2010 Census,” Galambos said in a prepared statement issued by the city. “You only have a few short weeks to complete and return your census form, so please take 10 minutes and fill it out.

“The population count determines how much sales tax comes to Sandy Springs. If you do not answer the census, we could lose sales tax dollars. That would mean having to increase other taxes.”

Residents have until April 21 to mail in their census forms, said 2010 Census spokesman Derick Moore.

On May 1, census “enumerators” will begin going to addresses from which census forms have not been returned. The enumerators will interview residents at the addresses and fill out forms, so the residents can be counted. The enumerators are scheduled to collect information from residents through the middle of June, census partnership coordinator Edward Davis said.

Residents who mail in forms after April 21 may be visited by enumerators also.

The final report on the 2010 U.S. population is due in December, a census spokesman said.

Census officials are encouraging residents to return the forms by mail in order to save money. It costs the census 44 cents when a form is returned in the mail, but $57 to send an enumerator to a home to fill out the form, Davis said.