First-quarter sales tax revenue jumps

Montgomery County recorded the third highest growth in sales tax receipts for the first quarter of t

Montgomery County recorded the third highest growth in sales tax receipts for the first quarter of this year among counties outside New York City, according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

Montgomery County’s sales tax receipts for the period of January through March were $6.4 million, up $700,000, or 12.3 percent, from the same quarter a year ago. The counties showing the highest growth were Steuben, with 18 percent, and Tioga, with 16 percent.

The state as a whole saw a 0.5 percent decline for the first quarter, collecting $2.7 billion in sales tax.

At a glance

Growth in sales tax receipts in Capital Region counties for the first quarter of this year, as compared to the same quarter in 2011:

• Albany: 4.7 percent, to $58 million

• Fulton: 3.8 percent, to $4.2 million

• Montgomery: 12.3 percent, to $6.4 million

• Rensselaer: 1.8 percent, to $17.8 million

• Saratoga: 7.9 percent, to $25 million

• Schenectady: 4.4 percent, to $22.5 million

• Schoharie: 2.6 percent, to $3.4 million

John Thayer, supervisor of the town of Root in Montgomery County, attributes the growth in part to high fuel prices. The average cost of fuel in New York state is $4.069, according to

The county is home to two travel plazas on the state Thruway: Indian Castle, between exits 29A and 29, and Mohawk, between exits 27 and 26. It also has several truck stops off the Thruway, each of which sell tons of fuel daily.

“That could be part of the reason why our numbers are up. When fuel prices go up, sales tax prices go up on fuel,” Thayer said.

Shayne Walters, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, said the business corridor along Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam, known as the “miracle mile,” is also helping spur sales tax growth. “The corridor does bring us a nice chunk of change. For a county that is hurting for money, that is not a bad thing,” he said.

Amsterdam town Supervisor Tom DiMezza said the business corridor is a plus for the county. “We did a lot of infrastructure work up there to bring developers to the area. The Amsterdam Commons has been a big lure. It is attracting people from all over the area, not just from Montgomery County,” he said.

Geoffrey Gloak, a spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, said increases in fuel costs help drive up sales tax receipts at the local level. “As long as prices are over $2 a gallon, the state share [of sale tax receipts] does not change, whereas the local share is not capped at the $2 limit and it continues to rise with the price of gasoline,” he said.

Gloak also said comparisons with last year’s higher first-quarter figures must be viewed with a caveat. “Last year there was no clothing exemption in place at the state level during the first quarter. It was reinstated last April for clothing and shoe items up to $55, and will go up to $110 on April 12 of this year,” he said. “So you are comparing a period when there was no exemption to a period with an exemption.”

Local municipalities do not have exemptions for clothing and footwear, he added.

Regardless of the reason, Thayer said any increase in sales tax receipts for Montgomery County is a plus. The county is looking at a projected $5 million gap in its 2013 budget, and any revenue increase is a good increase, he said. Unfortunately, he added, the county retains only about 50 percent of total sales tax collections, with the remainder distributed to the city of Amsterdam and the towns and villages.

The city of Amsterdam, for example, will receive $1 million of the $6.4 million. Its share is up almost $200,000 from a year ago. DiMezza said the any extra sales tax revenue his town receives will help close a “little bit of a budget gap we have” and may help offset the need to impose a town tax next year. Walters said his town, Charleston, will see more than $4,000 extra in revenue this quarter compared to a year ago. Root will see $9,000 more in its portion of sale tax receipts.

Fulton County Treasurer E. Terry Blodgett said his county saw its best first-quarter collection of sales tax receipts in years, with proceeds up 3.8 percent from a year ago. “That is a very healthy number. We will take 4 percent, we will take 2 percent. The higher it increases, the more we will like it,” he said.

He attributed the increase to an improvement in the economy. “This makes me believe things are on the mend. The housing market is starting to improve, and unemployment is starting to decline,” he said.

In addition, Blodgett said the Fulton County Board of Supervisors boosted sale tax projections in the current budget by about $150,000 to help close a gap. “If this trend continues, we will be above what we budgeted,” he said. “And that is where the optimism comes in.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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