Nevada counties, cities dispute state population estimates
LAS VEGAS — Fearing the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid, Clark County and several cities including Las Vegas are challenging state figures that show the southern Nevada population boom slowed last year.
State demographer Jeff Hardcastle said Monday that his preliminary estimates were that Clark County’s population grew 3.7 percent, to 1,541,395 people, in the 12 months ending June 30.
However, the county estimates its population at 1,584,944. That’s 43,549 more residents than Hardcastle counted.
There were similar gaps between state and local estimates for several southern Nevada cities, along with Churchill County, Humboldt County, Wells, and Winnemucca in northern Nevada.
Tom Perrigo, a senior Las Vegas planning and development analyst, called the estimates “hugely important” to setting the level of revenue from the state to local governments.
Officials in Clark County, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City told the Las Vegas Review-Journal they were appealing Hardcastle’s estimates.
“We’re just asking that the state demographer look at some other variables in addition to the ones that were used,” said Henderson demographer Scott Woodbury.
The state demographer estimated that 508,109 people live in Las Vegas, up 1 percent during the one year period. But Perrigo put the city’s population at 520,936, for an annual growth rate of just under 3 percent.
Hardcastle found Henderson was the state’s fastest-growing city. Its population was up 5.2 percent to 207,007. State estimates found that North Las Vegas grew 4.7 percent to 133,908 residents, while Boulder City had 14,581 residents, down 1.2 percent.
Gov. Kenny Guinn must certify the local population figures by March 1.
Local government representatives were planning to meet this week to share information before taking their appeals to Hardcastle. If a compromise cannot be reached, an administrative hearing will be held before the state Department of Taxation.
Officials said the discrepancy stemmed from different formulas that the state and local governments use to compute their populations.
Local governments rely mainly on housing data, while Hardcastle said he derives the state figures from housing data averaged with employment data, school enrollment and utility hookups.
Perrigo said there usually is not much difference between the two figures. He said the state statistical model was flawed.
But Hardcastle blamed the discrepancy on the difficulty of getting reliable numbers. His estimates came after the U.S. Census Bureau said this month that Nevada remained the nation’s fastest growing state, but that growth had slowed to 3.6 percent in the year ending July 1. It had been 6.5 percent between April 2000 and July 2001.
Perrigo said the appeals might affect more than local budgets, because companies use demographic data to help determine where they should invest in new stores or equipment. “It goes way beyond whether the city will be treated fairly in terms of revenue distribution,” he said.