Sales tax revenues have plummeted in state, but not in Orleans

Photo by Tom Rivers: Downtown Albion is pictured on Saturday, a day after the Christmas decorations went up on light poles.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 November 2020 at 5:36 pm

A report on sales tax revenues for the first 10 months of the year shows a significant drop for the state, but an increase in Orleans County.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s Office shows sales tax is down $3 billion statewide through October. The total sales tax collected in the state the first 10 months is $46.8 billion.

The sales tax for counties and cities is down 5.2 percent compared to the first 10 months of 2019, according to the comptroller.

Orleans County, however, is up by 7.7 percent or by $1.1 million, from $14.4 million to $15.5 million.

The county’s sales tax has seen some big swings each month: $1.4 million in January (up by $100,000), $1.2 million in February (up by $100,000), $1.9 million in March (up by $500,000), $900,000 in April (down by $500,000), $900,000 in May (down by $400,000), $2.6 million in June (up by $700,000), $1.2 million in July (down by $100,000), $1.2 million in August (down by $200,000), $3.0 million in September (up by $1.0 million) and $1.3 million in October (same as 2019).

The comptroller’s monthly report on October showed a 5.2 percent drop state-wide compared to October of 2019. DiNapoli said that decline is less severe than in other months during the pandemic.

“Statewide local sales tax collections have declined year-over-year for eight straight months,” DiNapoli said in a news release. “Our local governments are on the forefront of the pandemic response and they need financial aid from the federal government to help them get through this crisis.”

DiNapoli reported last month that local sales tax collections dropped 9.5 percent in the July-September quarter, down $452 million from collections in the same quarter of 2019.

“Revenues are down and New York continues to withhold billions of dollars in spending due to the fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” DiNapoli said. “Caution is needed because rising infection rates may force more shutdowns and even greater economic damage. Washington must respond with more economic stimulus, including real relief for state and local governments.”

While Orleans is up so far in sales tax revenue, that isn’t the case for other local counties. Here are how some nearby counties are doing through the first 10 months of 2020, compared to the same time period last year.

  • Genesee County: $33.7 million (down 3.9 percent or by $1.4 million)
  • Livingston County: $29.2 million (up 1.0 percent or $300,000)
  • Orleans County: $15.5 million (up 7.7 percent or by $1.1 million)
  • Wyoming County: $16.0 million (up 2.8 percent or by $400,000)
  • Monroe County: $412.6 million (down by 4.1 percent or $27.7 million)
  • Niagara County: $104.5 million (down by 1.3 percent or $1.4 million)
  • Erie County: $661.0 million (down 2.7 percent or $19.5 million)

Orleans County officials in a tentative 2021 budget plans to continue sharing $1,366,671 with the 10 towns and four villages. That has been the number since 2001.

However, the county is seeing the state take some of the local sales tax and divert it. The county will see $102,814 in its sales tax withheld by the state in January 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 shifting of sales tax to AIM and the Distressed Hospital Fund will cost the county $480,550, Welch said.