December 2, 2021

Lower gas prices good for consumers, bad for municipalities

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Henry Wells of Homer fills his tank Thursday at the Kwik Fill station on Homer Avenue in Cortland, where the price for regular unleaded was $1.99.9 a gallon. Cortland County has the lowest gas prices in the state, reports the American Automobile Association.

Michele Richards noticed the price Thursday as she filled her tank at the Kwik Fill gas station on Homer Avenue in Cortland: $1.99.9.

Richards, a waitress at Frank and Mary’s Diner in Cortland, said she loves seeing the gas prices go down, because she travels a half-hour for work.

“I’m able to put more money toward groceries and bills,” she said.

Gasoline prices in upstate New York are down 17% from a year ago, to $2.24 a gallon from $2.69, reports the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The American Automobile Association goes further: It reports a statewide average of $2.26 a gallon, and only $2.09 in Cortland — the cheapest gas in the state. That compares to a national average of $2.19.1.

The federal Energy Information Administration reported a slight increase in demand, to 8.52 million barrels per day from 8.48 million, which pushed the national average up a penny a gallon. However, New York prices stayed stable, the AAA reports.

“With low pump prices and fall colors beginning to show, many travelers will be tempted to take fall getaways to enjoy the foliage,” it said in a weekly summary.

“You want to enjoy the pleasant times you have and make the cruise affordable,” said retiree Henry Wells of Homer who was also pumping gas at Kwik Fill. “The road beckons, especially with how great the foliage is right now.”

However, while consumers benefit, the lower prices puts a dent in the sales tax revenue of Cortland County and its municipalities. Gasoline makes up 8.1% of the sales tax revenue, said Mack Cook, the city of Cortland’s director of administration and finance.

The drop in gas prices will be part of expected losses in sales tax revenue this year, Cook said: $1.1 million in the city and $6 million in the county.

“Folks are not traveling as much and working from home,” said Eric Mulvihill, clerk of the Cortland County Legislature. “Coupled with lower gas prices, it’s going to take a hit on the county’s sales tax.”