By John Burton
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Monmouth has experienced some changes in population over the past 10 years, but some county and local officials are skeptical about the accuracy of the numbers.
The data show that roughly 15,000 more people now call Monmouth County home than did so back in 2000, with the current population standing at 630,380.
Most of the population growth occurred in the western party of the county, with Upper Freehold experiencing the largest increase.
The population of Upper Freehold increased by 61.9 percent, bringing its total population to 6,902.
Other communities with reported increases include Marlboro, Manalapan, Millstone, Tinton Falls, Howell and Holmdel.
Red Bank showed a modest increase of 3.06 percent bringing that population to 12,206, while Fair Haven experienced a 3.10 percent hike, raising its population to 6,121,
Approximately 50 percent of municipalities within the county showed marked decreases in population.
The largest declines occurred in tiny seaside locations as Allenhurst and Loch Arbor Village, which saw drops of 30.92 percent and 30.71 percent, respectively, bringing their total populations down to 496 and 194.
In general, shore communities appeared to be experiencing the most declines, with the population down Middletown, Keansburg, Atlantic Highlands and Highlands. In the two river area, Sea Bright had a significant drop with a loss of 406 residents, a decline of 22.33 percent, bringing the population of that coastal community down to 1,412.
But some on the county and local levels are questioning the federal findings.
“We’re actually not sure these counts are completely accurate,” said Russell Like, principal planner/section supervisor of research and special studies for the county’s Division of Planning.
Like noted that the numbers seem to show there was an increase in the housing vacancy rate throughout the county. “And that does include the coastal communities,” he said. But he speculates that could mean, “A higher percentage of people who are using those as second homes.”
“That is no means a certainty,” Like acknowledged, “just one possibility.”
The Census is really intended as a “snapshot” of the population for April 1 of the year that it’s taken, Like explained. “The Census, while it attempted to be a 100 percent count is a model of the real world,” Like said. “And models are never 100 percent accurate.”
Like has spoken to some local officials about the findings and, “honestly, they’re a little puzzled.”
“So, I think there are some questions about these numbers,” he noted.
Middletown, the county’s largest municipality, at about 40 square miles, saw a downward trend of approximately 0.29 percent, which translates into a loss of 195 residents.
But like the county as a whole, Middletown has seen a reduction in household size and an increase in the housing vacancy rate. But the reasons why aren’t clear, said Jason Greenspan, Middletown’s planner. “Without detailed Census data at the track level, it’s really just speculation,” he said.
(Greenspan did note, that Middletown has experienced population decreases since the 1990 data.)
Some of statistical surprises may be explained by human error on the part of Census workers, noted Greenspan, who said township officials had received phone calls from residents of relatively new developments who complained they hadn’t gotten their forms, leaving him to wonder if the workers had overlooked some portions of the community.
In Sea Bright there was a similar situation, said Mayor Maria Fernandes, who said there were complaints about the federal Census worker, who was available for only a brief period.
“I found the numbers awfully strange,” Fernandes concluded.
Like has been telling municipalities within the county that they could challenge the federal findings if they think there are inconsistencies, and file appeals with the Census Bureau. Towns have until 2013 to file.
Middletown, is considering it, Greenspan said, though no decision has been made. And for now, “We in Middletown are speculating what that decline is due to,” he said.