November 30, 2021

County: Decrease in sales tax revenue less than expected

Cortland County expected a 10% to 20% decrease in sales tax revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the first two quarters show a less than 2% decrease, giving legislators some hope the pandemic may not be as painful as feared.

“Could be worse,” said Sandra Price (D-Harford, Virgil) during a Budget and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday.

Shoppers have paid $14.7 million in sales tax to the county and its municipalities from January through June — the first two quarters.

Last year, the county had just over $15 million in the same period. An almost 11% decrease in sales tax revenue in the second quarter was balanced, in part, by an 8.6% increase in the first quarter.

Source: Cortland County, Illustration by Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

County Administrator Rob Corpora told legislators in April there could be an estimated 20% decline in sales tax revenue, about $3.2 million countywide, of which the county’s share would be about $1.73 million.

However, the New York State Association of Counties said the drop could be anywhere from 4% to 35%.

The county had adopted its 2020 budget with 2020 sales tax revenue projected at $30.5 million, an increase of more than $2.6 million than what it budgeted for in 2019.

Corpora has been updating the county Legislature on its financial situation and has noted several times since the beginning of the coronavirus in March that the county was possibly looking at a 10% to 20% loss in sales tax revenue because fewer people were out purchasing items.

Corpora said given the situation the first two quarters is “a good sign,” but he remained hesitant to hang his hat on the loss staying that low.

“It could still go down as far as you know, more losses, because we don’t know what’s going to happen once the sales tax starts coming in from this point forward,” he said. “I mean we’re in recovery, but it’s very slow out there, but internet sales have picked up, so it’s anybody’s guess.”

Preston surprised at panel removal

Legislator Kelly Preston said Tuesday she was surprised to be removed as the vice chairwoman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

“It’s the chairman’s prerogative,” said Preston (R-Homer). Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton) has the authority to make committee assignments.

At a Highway and Solid Waste Committee meeting July 7, Legislator Linda Jones (R-Homer) raised the question why Legislator Joe Nauseef (R-Cortlandville) was removed from that committee. She got no answer. Jones had also noted that Preston had been removed from the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Heider would not comment on the changes, noting he didn’t discuss personnel or HIPAA, the federal medical record confidentiality laws.

Preston said she just wants to get work done as a legislator.

“I’m not here for gossip and drama, the county has so many problems,” she said.

— S.N. Briere