CAPITAL REGION -- With consumers continuing to spend in a low-unemployment economy, sales tax revenues grew for nearly all Capital Region counties in 2019, according to a report released Monday by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
The large counties at the core of the region -- Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga -- saw their receipts grow around 3.5 percent for the year, a solid performance that was a little below the statewide average of 4.7 percent, which was influenced upward by downstate activity.
At the eastern end of the Mohawk Valley, results varied, with Montgomery County reporting a 6.9 percent increase, while Fulton County was one of just three counties across the state that saw revenue drop from a year earlier. DiNapoli's office said the Fulton County situation was due in part to a $387,000 positive "technical adjustment" the county received in 2018, a one-time revenue increase for that year.
Technical adjustments typically occur as the state reconciles revenue estimates it uses to pay the counties on a quarterly basis with the actual sales tax payments received from businesses in those counties, which can lag by months or even longer.
Montgomery County collected nearly $33 million, compared to $30.8 million in 2018. The county benefits not only from a Thruway rest area east of Amsterdam and a large truck stop in Fultonville, but is also seeing growth from large commercial warehousing operations on Route 5S in the towns of Florida and Glen, also thanks to its location along the Thruway.
While County Executive Matthew Ossenfort wasn't available for comment on Monday, he talked about the trend during an interview in November. "This is certainly good news for our finances but also the city of Amsterdam and the towns county-wide as roughly forty percent of this increase is shared with them," he said. "This most recent data reflects the positive economic momentum in Montgomery County."
In general, DiNapoli said local sales tax revenue grew faster in the second half of the year than the first half.
"The economic climate in New York state was positive through 2019 with continued employment and wage growth," DiNapoli said. "Although all regions saw increased sales tax collections, the upstate regions had weaker collections than the downstate region."
Of the 17 cities in the state that collect their own sales taxes, 13 saw increases. Saratoga Springs was among the gainers, with 5.5 percent growth; Gloversville was among the losers, with a 4.4 percent decline. Salamanca, Olean and Oswego were the other cities that saw declines.
The year-to-year growth is down because Gloversville had a highly usual 17.8 percent increase from 2017 to 2018, for reasons that remain unknown, said Mayor Vincent DeSantis. While it was the largest percentage increase in the state that year, it is likely an anomaly.
"If you go back and look at 2016 and 2017, we've generally been increasing, it's consistently higher each year," DeSantis said. "With Gloversville there's some redevelopment coming, and that will increase the economic activity in the city."
Gloversville received $3,865,837 last year, compared to $4.43 million in 2018, and and $3.433 million in 2017, according to state comptroller's figures.
In the larger picture, DeNapoli said a factor dampening sales tax growth was lower gasoline prices, which overall were down for the first time since 2016. "Taxes collected from the sale of motor fuel are a significant component of overall local sales tax revenue, especially upstate," the report said.
The state's efforts to increase collections on interstate sales made over the internet may be helping collections, the report added -- though those efforts, ramped up in 2019, have yet to be evaluated in any depth.
SALES TAX REVENUE CHART:
COUNTY 2019 Revenue Percentage change
Albany $285,271,314 3.7 percent
Fulton $22,439,415 -4.4 percent
Montgomery $32,935,264 6.9 percent
Saratoga $129,739,135 3.5 percent
Schenectady $105,276,121 3.6 percent
Schoharie $16,145,136 0.5 percent