Orleans had one of biggest increases in sales tax in the state in 2020

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 February 2021 at 4:15 pm

County revenues increased 9.2% while sales tax plummeted 10.0% statewide

Photo by Tom Rivers: Main Street in Medina is pictured on Aug. 18.

Sales tax revenues plunged 10 percent statewide in 2020, with New York City the hardest hit. Its sales tax collections were down 18.7%, from $8.23 billion to $6.69 billion.

Orleans County, however, had one of the biggest increases in the state, up by 9.2 percent – from $17.7 million in 2019 to $19.4 million in 2020.

Orleans was up while the neighboring counties – Niagara, Genesee and Monroe – all experienced sales tax declines, according to a report from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Orleans saw sales tax gains in three out of the four quarters in 2020. January through March sales tax collections were at $4.4 million in 2020, up from $3.8 million in 2019. April through June dropped from $4.6 million in 2019 to $4.4 million. Collections were then up from July through September, from $4.7 million to $5.4 million, and then from October through December the sales tax was up from $4.7 million to $5.2 million.

Here are the sales tax collections for Orleans County and other nearby counties:

  • Orleans County, $17.7 million in 2019, $19.4 million in 2020 – 9.2% increase
  • Genesee County, $42.5 million in 2019, $41.4 million in 2020 – 2.5% decrease
  • Livingston County, $35.5 million in 2019, $36.3 million in 2020 – 2.3% increase
  • Wyoming County, $19.0 million in 2019, $20.0 million in 2020, 5.1% increase
  • Erie County, $829.4 million in 2019, $814.6 million in 2020, 1.8% decrease
  • Niagara County, $129.8 million in 2019, $129.1 million in 2020, 0.5% decrease
  • Monroe County, $526.0 million in 2019, $511.2 million in 2020, 2.8% decrease

The 9.2 percent increase for Orleans was topped only by Westchester at 9.8 percent, Oswego at 10.5 percent and Delaware at 10.7 percent. (The comptroller said Westchester’s increase was largely due to an increase in the local sales tax rate from 3 to 4 cents.)

State-wide, 30 of the counties had sales tax increase while 27 suffered declines, with Tompkins County showing the biggest drop at 10.4 percent.

DiNapoli’s report said the sales tax took its biggest hit from march through May when many businesses were closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. The sectors with the biggest year-over-year declines were restaurants, traveler accommodations and clothing stores.

Some sectors saw increases, including “beer, wine, and liquor stores” and “other information services” (internet content publishers and broadcasters). The comptroller’s report noted increases for “electronic shopping and mail-order houses,” which includes major online-only retailers, such as Amazon.

The sales more than doubled from electronic shopping and mail-order houses from both March to May and then June to August periods, the comptroller’s report stated.

The $1.7 million increase for Orleans County doesn’t all go in the county coffers. The county is seeing the state take some of the local sales tax and divert it. The county is having $102,814 in its sales tax withheld by the state and sent to the Fiscally Distressed Hospital Fund, with another $87,460 to be withheld later 2021, said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer.

The county also will have $290,276 taken from its sales tax for AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities). That used to be paid for by the state to some towns and villages but now comes from the local sales tax.

The county’s sales tax also includes $1,366,671 to be shared with the 10 towns and four villages. That amount hasn’t changed since 2001.