Schenectady County led the state among large counties with double-digit growth in sales tax receipts for the second quarter of this year compared to the same period a year ago.
At a glance
Sales tax figures for other counties in the region, listed by current second-quarter total, followed by percentage change, cumulative total for the first two quarters of the year and percentage change compared to a year ago:
Albany: $55.8 million, up 1%; $111 million cumulative, up 1%.
Fulton: $4.2 million, down 5%; $8.2 million cumulative, down 3%.
Montgomery: $6.2 million, down 1%; $11.8 million cumulative, no change.
Rensselaer: $18.8 million, up 10%; $36.4 million cumulative, up 10%.
Saratoga: $24 million, up 2%; $47.2 million cumulative, up 3%.
Schenectady: $22.9 million, up 12%; $44.5 million, up 8%.
Schoharie: $3.5 million, unchanged; $6.8 million cumulative, up 5%.
Schenectady County collected 12 percent more in sales tax revenue from April through June of this year, or $22.9 million, versus $20.5 million during the same quarter last year, according to data from the state Department of Taxation and Finance.
The county’s growth was much greater than that of Saratoga County, which saw its sales tax income grow 2 percent for the second quarter, compared to a year ago. The state as a whole saw sales tax growth of about 7 percent for the second quarter, to $5.5 billion.
Gary Hughes, Democratic majority leader for the Schenectady County Legislature, said he was not surprised by the sales tax growth in the county. “I knew we were running ahead of last year. It is the result of the economic development in the county,” he said.
Hughes is seeking re-election to the county Legislature in District 2, which encompasses the southern half of the city.
Democrats in races this year for Schenectady City Council and the Schenectady County Legislature have touted job growth and economic development as part of their platforms. They are seeking to retain control of both legislative bodies in the face of opposition from Republicans at the county level and the independent Alliance Party, which is being formed to contest races at the city level.
Hughes said the county is seeing the benefits of years of investment under Democrats’ “unified economic development team,” a term they coined to show they are working together to promote the county’s interests.
“The only factor that could account for a growth in the sales tax base is economic development. Nothing else has changed,” Hughes said.
“For that kind of increase, you had to have had more people coming into the county and spending money,” Hughes said. “A lot of it is the arts and entertainment district.”
According to figures provided by Democrats, there has been more than $350 million in investment in the local economy, resulting in the creation of more than 3,000 jobs, since they took control of the county Legislature from Republicans in 2004. They credit the growth, in large part, to efforts spearheaded by the Metroplex Development Authority. Metroplex focused its initial attention on revitalizing downtown, with efforts centered on rehabilitating and expanding Proctors.
High gas prices may also have played a factor in the sales tax growth, Hughes said, but high gas prices were in effect throughout the state during the period. “If the whole state was up 12 percent [in sales tax growth], you might say it is component of higher gas prices,” he said.
Peter Guidarelli, a Republican running for Schenectady County Legislature in District 1, which consists of the northern half of the city, said there is more to the growth in sales tax revenues than Hughes’ explanation. “To take blanket credit for everything good and to ignore anything that is negative is pure political rhetoric. Much more credit needs to be given to private companies and developers for the growth in sales tax revenues,” he said.
Guidarelli said an analysis of sales tax revenue could show the growth came from several retail sectors in Schenectady County that developed separate of Metroplex’s initiatives. He cited Niskayuna Commons and the Route 50 corridor in Glenville.
“I attribute it back to good, solid private businesses making investments and doing business in Schenectady County,” he said. He also cited increased sales in the car and home improvement industries as perhaps driving sales tax growth.
“The second quarter is always strong for the home improvement industry and car sales,” he said.
To be sure, though, Guidarelli does credit Proctors for bringing people into the county. “As Proctors thrives, you will see an increase in sales tax dollars generated from nearby hotels and restaurants,” he said.