CAPITAL REGION — Local counties did well last year in collecting sales tax revenue, though Schenectady County saw significantly less growth than its neighbors.
Schenectady County collected $101.6 million in sales tax revenue for 2018, but that was only $115,000 more than the year before, according to a report released by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. That’s a 0.01 percent growth rate; the regional average increase was 5.05 percent.
A year ago, however, the comptroller reported that Schenectacy County’s sales tax revenue grew 7.66 percent, the most in the region.
County spokesman Joe McQueen said the county believes it saw an unusual spike in 2016-17 because of one-time purchases of construction materials and furnishings for the Rivers Casino & Resort and surrounding Mohawk Harbor development. He noted, however, that that was a guess, since the state doesn’t share details about where sales tax originates within counties.
“As far as our budget, we’re right on target with where we expect to be,” McQueen said.
Year-to-year numbers can fluctuate for reasons apart from retail sales, including adjustments made by the state for past years, as actual receipts are matched against estimates. At this point, much of what the state paid in 2018 is based on estimates.
DiNapoli reported that, statewide, sales tax collections grew for the third year in a row, with total collections of $17.5 billion, up 5.3 percent.
“Local sales tax collections grew at a faster pace in 2018 than in recent years, boosting local revenues,” DiNapoli said in releasing the report on Monday. “Despite the good news, a slowdown in collection growth in the fourth quarter shows that sales tax revenue can be unpredictable. Local officials should keep a watchful eye on consumer spending and this revenue source and be prepared to react accordingly.”
Every region of the state, with the exception of the Finger Lakes, has experienced sales tax growth on an annual basis. The Finger Lakes region’s sales tax growth slowed from 4.9 percent in 2017 to 3.7 percent in 2018, DiNapoli said.
The report said sales tax collections in the Mohawk Valley, which includes Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties, grew 5.8 percent.
Of the 57 counties outside New York City, collections grew in 55. Collections were down only in Cayuga (-1.3 percent) and Madison (-0.7 percent) counties.
All but one of the cities with its own sales tax experienced an increase in year-over-year collections in 2018. Gloversville had the strongest growth (17.8 percent), but that doesn’t necessarily reflect actual growth. The city’s sales tax growth was 4.3 percent between 2016 and 2017.
“Most cities’ total sales tax collections are relatively small, which means they are susceptible to great percentage variances, especially when factoring in technical adjustments,” the report states.
DiNapoli noted that if proposed legislation to increase enforcement of sales tax collections for internet-based sales — think Amazon — is approved this year, it could bring millions in additional sales tax revenue to local governments.
2018 Sales Tax Revenue:
Albany County: $275.1 million up 6.2 percent
Fulton County: $22.6 million up 9.45 percent
Montgomery Co. $30.8 million up 4.62 percent
Rensselaer Co. $88.4 million up 5.6 percent
Saratoga Co. $125.3 million up 4.8 percent
Schenectady Co. $101.6 million up 0.01 percent
Schoharie Co. $16.1 million up 3.9 percent
Cities that collect sales tax separately:
Gloversville $4.04 million up 17.8 percent
Johnstown $4.08 million up 7.7 percent
Saratoga Springs $12.7 million up 7.63 percent
Source: New York State Comptroller