February 23, 2019

Sales tax income up

Strong year means extra money to help with jail

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland Dodge Jeep Ram sales consultant J.P. Bogart clears snow from a Chrysler 300 Wednesday at the dealership in Cortlandville. Cortland County’s sales tax revenue increased 3.2 percent in 2018, compared with 2017, which fell below the state average increase of 5.3 percent. With the severe roof leaks leaks that last week closed the county jail and forced the relocation of nearly all inmates, a county official said the additional revenue could help fix the roof.

Cortland County collected nearly $2 million more in sales tax revenue in 2018 than it expected, and the chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee said the money will help pay for emergency repairs to county’s jail.

Cortland County collected $29.8 million in 2018, up 3.2 percent from $28.9 million in 2017, shows a recent state comptroller report, of which the county kept $15.9 million, with the rest being passed to municipalities. The county had projected collecting $27.8 million.

The increased income follows a statewide trend, according to figures from the comptroller. Sales tax collections were up 5.3 percent in 2018 over 2017, totaling $17.5 billion.

Growth was strongest in the second quarter, according to the state comptroller news release, and growth was especially strong in the Southern Tier and Central New York. However, Cortland County’s strongest gains were in the fourth quarter, said county Legislature Clerk Eric Mulvihill.

Gasoline prices — a large segment of sales tax revenue — were down, so tax revenue from its sale wasn’t as strong, the state reported. However, automobile dealerships saw more sales. Sales were up last year at Cortland Chrysler Dodge Jeep, said Sales Manager Ryan Schafer.

Schafer estimated the dealership on West Road in Cortlandville sold at least 200 more vehicles in 2018 than in 2017. New and used midsized sport utility vehicles in the $15,000 to $20,000 range were particularly sought after, he said.

“We worked hard to stock our inventory with quality vehicles priced fairly for the community,” he said.

Budget and Finance Committee Chairman George Wagner (R-Marathon, Lapeer) said the extra money will help the county pay to repair the roof, heating and ventilation systems and the electrical system in the jail that were damaged when the roof leaked Jan. 24, forcing the evacuation of 60 inmates.

However, the county has not yet decided what to do with the structure — whether to repair it or build a new jail.

A joint meeting Feb. 6 of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and Buildings and Grounds Committee will start those discussions, said Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Chairman Mike Barylski (D-Cortlandville).

Wagner said he budgeted sales tax revenue conservatively and it paid off.

“I’m a conservative, so I was urged by others to allow more but I refused and of course now with what happened at the jail it’s a good thing we underestimated,” he said.

After the county took its 53.5 percent share in 2018, the remaining $13.9 million was distributed to the city, towns and villages, with the city getting 17.62 percent and the towns and villages 28.89 percent.

In 2019, that formula changes, with the county keeping 54 percent, the city getting 17.75 percent and towns and villages 28.25 percent.

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