By Joe Earle

Sandy Springs residents lag behind other Georgians and residents of other north Fulton cities in the rate they are taking part in the U.S. Census.

Sandy Springs’ census participation rate also is lower than the national rate, according to a census Web site that tracks the rate of census form returns.

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.

The census office Web page reported on April 6 that about 51 percent of the residents of Sandy Springs were participating in the census. That rate of return lagged both Georgia’s 57 percent rate and the national rate of 60 percent.

“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.”

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. The Census Web site reported the city of Atlanta’s participation rate to be 50 percent.

“Right now it looks like Mayor Galambos will have to pay up,” Sandy Springs officials said in a prepared statement.

The census participation rate is computed to show the percentage of the census forms mailed out to addresses in and 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.

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.