Local News

Census: Highlands County still losing population

SEBRING - The U.S. Census estimates Highlands County and its three municipalities have lost population since the 2010 head count.

County Commissioner Greg Harris guesses that's true, Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon produces a 2012 figure from the University of Florida which adds 250 to the city.

UF estimates Avon Park had 9,086 residents in 2012; the 2013 Census showed 8,792, a loss of 86 residents.

"I know that we have added close to 600 more residential units in 2013/2014," Deleon said, because the City of Charm has annexed several subdivisions in the past two years.

Highlands County's 2013 estimate is 97,616, a loss of 289 residents last year, and 1,170 since 2010, the Census said.

"That's probably right," said county commission chair Greg Harris, who lives in Country Club Estates subdivision. "I know in my community, they're passing away at a pretty good clip."

There's an upside of riding the cusp of 100,000. "We get a great benefit being under 100,000 that we would not if we were over 100,000," Harris said. "There's a whole different set of rules. Once we go over that, we're going to have to step up and do some things we haven't been doing. Right now, we're a Rural Area of Economic Concern. Because of that, we get a lot of different grants and breaks."

Sebring's population was 10,413 in 2010, the Census said. By 2012, the city had shed 73 residents, according to the 2013 Census estimate.

The Census counted 2,223 in Lake Placid on April 1, 2010. The 2012 Census estimate is 2,126 men, women and children.

Highlands County is not the only net loser, the 2013 population estimate said: DeSoto, population 34,517 also lost 345; Hardee, population 27,519, lost 212; and Okeechobee, population 39,330, lost 666. Glades, population 13,345, gained 467; Polk, population 623,009, gained 20,914 - 6,926 in the past year alone.

During those same three years, Florida almost gained a congressional district. Florida, population 19,320,749, picked up 518,059 from 2010 to 2013. The average congressional district contained about 700,000 people in 2010.

The Sun-Sentinel reported South Florida's population surged 4.4 percent between 2010 and 2013. Broward County has an estimated 1.84 million residents, compared with 1.75 million in 2010. The biggest driver was international immigration, which accounted for 39,565 new residents. Domestic migration added 25,965 while natural population increase (births minus deaths) boosted 20,026.

Palm Beach County grew to 1.37 million people, and Miami-Dade County had 2.62 million residents.

That growth pushed Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach-Miami to 5.8 million, just above Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga.