County sales tax revenue surges

Shops along Main Street in the village of Catskill. Sales tax revenue in Greene County is surging to pre-pandemic levels as consumers return to stores and spend more. Sam Raudins/Columbia-Greene Media

CATSKILL — Greene County residents appear to be spending in their communities again as sales tax collection in the county surged nearly 28% in the first five months of 2021 compared to the same time last year.

Greene County sales tax collection — which is from the sales of goods and services — from January to May 2021 exceeded $15 million — an increase of more than $3 million over the first five months of 2020, according to a report from the Office of the state Comptroller. Greene County’s sales tax rate is 8%, half of which goes to the state and the other half to the county.

Across the state, local collections increased by nearly 58% in the month of May alone, the highest one-month increase in recent history, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement.

“For the second straight month, local sales tax collections had a tremendous boost. Strong collections in May show the economy continues to improve as spending rebounds from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the standstill it created in New York state in March 2020,” DiNapoli said. “Combined with direct federal assistance and restored state aid, the recovery of sales taxes will help New York’s local governments rebound from the effects of last year’s revenue shortfalls.”

New York City’s May collections totaled $636 million, an increase of 51.4%, or $216 million. All counties outside of New York City also saw year-over-year collections for May grow by double digits, ranging from 17.6% in Franklin County to 88.2% in Allegany County.

Columbia County collection increased more than 74% in May, while Greene County increased more than 50%.

Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said there are many factors that contribute to the increase, including people staying in their second homes in the county longer and spending more, federal stimulus packages and efforts by the county’s economic development team working with local businesses.

Sales tax is the largest source of revenue for the county, Linger said, but he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the increase, as sales tax collection can be difficult to predict.

“We’re going to continue to budget like we normally do. We’re going to work with our businesses like we always do. We put a lot of work into economic development here to increase that sales tax number,” Linger said. “I’d like to say it was all due to our hard work, but there’s a lot of factors.”

Jeff Friedman, president and executive director of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce, said the data are a good indicator of retail sales in the area.

“We’re pretty excited about the fact that our economy seems to have weathered the pandemic pretty well. And we’re getting back to some levels of business that are even greater than they were even two years ago, because these sales tax figures are even better than they were two years ago pre-pandemic, so this is a significant jump,” Friedman said.

Friedman said barring any kind of economic shock, he expects sales tax collection to continue to increase — maybe not at quite as significant a rate — because Greene County’s collection has increased every year since the Great Recession.

Part of the increase could also be attributed to the county receiving sales tax from online shopping, which was not the case two years ago, Friedman said.

“It’s not accounting for all of the increase, but it is part of the increase, which is also still nice, and an indicator that members of the community are spending their dollars on retail items,” Friedman said.

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(1) comment

scottmyers

This report is an incomplete accounting. The last public annual financial presentation shows a debt of $53,060,000—the illusion the county is well-managed harms planning. Out Of Alignment by Central Hudson shows a declining per capita and income. We obligated a new $90 million for a jail that was not justified or is justifiable. We demolished the Sheriff's Office at 80 Bridge Street to spend over the 2% property tax caps. This is a new deficit of $6.2 million, the building's worth, and the cost of demolition. This created a non-income parking lot. The $39 million construction cost, plus the $8 million from "reserves, and the $16 million in interest ALL LEAVES GREENE COUNTY. Treasurer Peter Markou told me he doesn't have the $40 - $120 million he needs for employee retirement and health care. BuyInGreene reports a very high 37% public sector employment. COVID-19 and Tourism are incongruous, and many businesses did not make it (SNAP Fitness, Circle W, and on and on).

Building a Gulag-style homeless shelter near the new jail, the homeless shelter proposed there is just another jail. This belays the lack of compassion and responsibility for our social safety net. Contracting out-of-county health care for the new jail is the same and is irresponsible to the detainees. Most simply need minor assistance, competent mental health. There's almost no ball anymore for these reasons. Jail is never healthy for the person detained.

Oddly, the county doesn't seem capable of compassion. The new recent Police Reviews for the Sheriff's Department and VIllage of Catskill were feckless. They only coalesced power. We didn't gain a legitimate civilian review committee or reduce out-of-proportion spending for police v. competent social service and health care.

DSS has no licensed social workers. Its commissioner, Kira Pospesel, has an R.N. title, not an M.S.W. (Masters in Social Work). Similarly, Kimberly Kaplan, the patronage wife of County Attorney Ed Kaplan, has a two-year associate degree in who knows what. She lacks the MPH (Masters of Public Health) the position requires. We did NOT handle COVID-19 well.

The glossy financials are false. Worse, the policies by the Greene County government avoid support to the actual residents. The proof is that only 9 of the 1,300 businesses here are minority-owned. The proof is former Vincent Seeley allowing the demolition of 80 Bridge Street, suppressing Black Lives Matters, then exiting for rehab in Florida.

It's hard to report these, but the details aren't ones I create. It's past time to get ahold of these failures and be the co-creators of the new (post COVID-19) reality. If not now, then when?

Appreciate the risk in my posts, it caused Greene County to arrest and charge me, and orders of protection naming all the County legislators and most administrators.

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