Mayor Gavin Newsom is convinced 850,000 people live in San Francisco (and went as far as to hire an outside agency last year in order to prove it). The US Census disagrees. Residents should care about this because it means money, or about $3,000 less per person in state and federal grants lost if the federal census-taking was indeed innacurate.

So is the city doing its utmost to hop on this gravy train and collect every last dime possible? Nope — and in fact, the city stands to lose money if the current census numbers stand.

We may never know how many people live in the City and County, because $850,000 originally budgeted for the 2010 census has been pared down to about $300,000. Some money is saved, but much more could be lost: unless 809,000 people are counted next year, the city’s $255 million in federal funded programs will shrink to a still-undisclosed smaller number, according to a Budget Analyst report.

“$300,000 is just not enough to do it,” said Supervisor David Campos, whom Newsom appointed to a newly-formed census committee earlier in the year, tasked with ensuring that the next count is right. “The mayor made a number of commitments to do this right… that we’d do everything we could (to get it right)… this does not reflect that level of commitment.”

That $300,000 will hire only three full-time workers, leaving much of the legwork up to volunteers. Volunteers — and, according to the report, corporate sponsorships. Could we see next year the Kraft Macaroni and Census? Perhaps so — but there’s many more opportunities here for wit and snark. Leave your best corporate-sponsored San Francisco census idea in the comments.

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