Local counties benefiting from increased sales tax collections statewide
When the final figures came out in sales tax collections across New York in 2017, there was good news for county governments in Western New York and for some cities.
Figures from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, whose department monitors sales tax collections, say five big counties in this region collected more than $1 billion in local sales tax, up a little more than 3 percent for 2017. He reports the greatest growth in sales tax revenue collection since 2013.
Every one of the eight Western New York counties received more money than in 2016, with Wyoming up the highest at 9.4 percent, although that increase translates to only a relatively small $18 million. The city of Salamanca in Cattaraugus County saw a 9 percent increase, also relative small at about $53,000, but still up.
Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello said his county's revenues rose 4 percent, or $2.5 million. With a background in private business and as a county legislator, Borrello said increases help put budgets together.
"When you are budgeting, you have to be careful and cautious and I'll certainly put forth a responsible budget," he said. "The legislature has been reducing property taxes for four years in a row and certainly having a robust sales tax collection is an important part of continuing to reduce the property tax burden in Chautauqua County."
The increases give local officials some confidence looking forward.
"It provides a little bit more of a cushion because sales tax revenue did come in fairly strong," said Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. "It is hard to predict exactly what sales tax revenue will be, but I think it's good news for the county budget, considering the fact that it is our largest source of revenue. It is very hard to predict. It's always a good thing when it comes in over budget."
However, Mychajliw said he does not want the county's 3.18-percent increase, or $24 million, used by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to raise spending.
Niagara County Manager Richard Updegrove said his county's 1.5 percent increase, or nearly $2 million, is a good sign, reflecting Canadian shoppers, Canadian travelers through Niagara Falls International Airport and car sales. He said it also helps that the county is working hard on economic development, especially free trade, and that the tourism industry is doing well.
"If you look back over the last 11 or 12 years, including 2017, we've continued to outpace inflation," said Updegrove. "Our highs haven't been as high as other counties, but our lows also haven't been as low. There are a lot of theories for that, but I think a lot of it has to do with the type of economy that we have and the importance of tourism on the economy in Niagara County."