Capital Region

Sales tax revenue plummets in April across Capital Region amid COVID-19 shutdowns

COVID-19 crimps retail activity, will hit county-level budgets
Cars line up 3 lanes wide at the Fonda Fairgrounds for a drive-through Food Bank Friday
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Cars line up 3 lanes wide at the Fonda Fairgrounds for a drive-through Food Bank Friday

Categories: Business, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

ALBANY — To put the brightest face on a bad situation … New Yorkers saved a bundle on sales tax in April.

The Office of the State Comptroller reported sales tax revenue data on Tuesday for the month of April, the first full month of the economic shutdown ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to slow the spread of the pandemic.

With many shops closed, many people staying home, most motorists buying less gasoline, and millions of New Yorkers suddenly feeling cautious about their spending, April 2020 sales tax revenue was down $327 million statewide from April 2019, a 24.4% drop.

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In Capital Region counties, the decrease ranged from 18.5% in Schoharie County to 32.3% in Albany County. The cities that collect their own sales tax also were hard-hit: Glens Falls (down 24.4%), Saratoga Springs (25.2%), Johnstown (34.5%) and Gloversville (37.5%).

Local governments may have to slash services or raise property taxes to make up for the revenue they aren’t getting from sales tax, unless the federal government provides assistance.

So whatever New Yorkers aren’t spending on sales tax may come due elsewhere.

In Schenectady County, for example, $5.36 million was paid in sales tax in April 2020 vs. $7.56 million in April 2019.

How bad the impact is on governments will depend on how quickly the economy restarts and how fully it recovers.

January and February were good months for sales tax revenue, well exceeding the same months in 2019.

Even March 2020 saw markedly better sales tax revenue than March 2019, despite the pandemic arriving in the state and Cuomo shutting down the economy effective March 22.

(There was extensive retail activity in March as people hoarded toilet paper and other items.)

“The coronavirus has hurt household finances, and the April sales tax figures show how deep it is cutting into municipal finances,” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. “Sales tax revenues are vital for the counties and cities that are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. They are the first responders and provide a safety net of services for New Yorkers. The federal government needs to provide assistance to those hit hard by this virus or the budget cuts could be severe in some communities.” 

Through the first four months of 2020, some Capital Region counties have seen more sales tax revenue than in the same period of 2019. But all Capital Region counties were down in April, as was every other county in the state.

Here are the changes in sales tax revenue for the year to date and April only:

  • Albany County -5% -32.3%
  • Fulton County -0.9% -19.2%
  • Montgomery County +4.1% -24.7%
  • Rensselaer County -7.4% -26.8%
  • Saratoga County +0.1% -26.0%
  • Schenectady County -3.3% -28.9%
  • Schoharie County +3.5% -18.5%
  • Statewide -2.4% -24.4%

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