RENO (AP) - When it comes to counting Nevada's population, do you believe federal or state officials?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest estimates, Nevada had 1.8 million residents last July 1. That made the state the fastest growing in the nation for the year and during the entire 1990-99 period.
But the state demographer's office, in population figures certified February by Gov. Kenny Guinn, put the state population at just under 2 million - or 158,397 people more than the U.S. Census estimate.
Nevada Demographer Jeff Hardcastle thinks the state figures are more accurate. If the Census Bureau makes a similar undercount when the 2000 census is taken in April, he says Nevada will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax revenues.
''This shows how important it is for people to be counted, for them to return their census forms,'' said Hardcastle. ''It's a huge gap. They are both estimates. Let's see who is in the right ballpark.''
Census figures are used by the federal government in allocating tax revenue back to the states, including money for building roads.
The population figures are used by Congress in determining the number of members each state has in the House of Representatives. Nevada will pick up another seat in Congress, no matter who does the counting.
The state Legislature in February allocated more than $700,000 to try through advertisements and letters to persuade residents to participate in the census.
According to the latest federal census figures, the Las Vegas area has experienced 64 percent growth over the past decade - and with a population of 1.2 million has nearly 16,000 more residents than were counted in the entire state 10 years ago.
Nevada's population overall has increased 50.6 percent over the decade, from 1.2 million to 1.8 million.
Nye County boasted the biggest percentage increase from 1990 to the 1999 estimates released Wednesday - 67.1 percent, from 17,781 to 29,709. That's primarily due to growth in Pahrump.
Lyon County posted the biggest percentage gain in northern Nevada, up 57.3 percent, from 20,001 to 31,459, thanks to the growing suburbs of Fernley east of Reno and Dayton east of Carson City.
''I'm not surprised, with Dayton and Fernley being part of Lyon County,'' Barbara Peck, a longtime Dayton resident, said of the rankings. ''It will be interesting to see what happens in the next five or 10 years.''
Washoe County, encompassing Reno and Sparks, grew from 254,667 in 1990 to 319,816 in 1999 - a gain of 25.6 percent.
Douglas County's population increased 36.1 percent to 37,602, Carson City's increased 23.7 percent to 50,046 and Elko County's grew 35.9 percent to 45,465.
Only two Nevada counties lost population over the 10-year period and both were hit hard by downturns in the mining industry.
Mineral County dropped 20.1 percent, from 6,475 to 5,176 in the new estimates. Esmeralda County's population feel 16.6 percent, from 1,344 to 1,121.