HUDSON — Columbia and Greene counties have seen an increase in their taxable sales activity.
The Twin Counties are among 38 in the state to meet or exceed their taxable sales activity for the months of June, July and August 2020 over their numbers from 2019, according to the latest report from the New York State Association of Counties Coronavirus Economic Impact report series.
“We did see some significant improvement in that time period,” said Columbia County Treasurer P.J. Keeler. “A lot of it was due to internet shopping and the taxes that were attributable to that. A lot of people were also doing home improvement projects during that time.”
Taxable sales represent the full value of transactions, not the amount of sales tax generated. Statewide, the total taxable sales were down for the June-July-August period by around $8.6 billion or about 9% over last year’s numbers, according to the report.
While the state as a whole is down, Columbia and Greene have seen an increase in their amount of total taxable sales this year over the same June-July-August period in 2019. Columbia County is up about $15 million or about 4.9% in total taxable sales for the June through August period, an increase from the county’s roughly $307 million in 2019 to about $322 million in total taxable sales in 2020, according to the report.
Greene County is up by $10.4 million or about 4.3% in its total taxable sales for the June-July-August period, an increase from the county’s nearly $241.7 million in 2019 to about $252.2 million in total taxable sales in 2020, according to the report.
In Columbia and Greene counties, one of the biggest areas of increased sales was in a category called online sales and mail-order housing. This includes retail for all types of merchandise purchased by methods other than brick-and-mortar stores, including online sales, catalogs, toll-free telephone numbers and other electronic media. During the months of June, July and August, the taxable sales generated from these types of sales increased by about $13.6 million or 108% from 2019 to 2020 in Columbia County and by about $9 million or 98% in Greene County.
“While certain areas of the state are seeing gradual improvements, we still expect that more than half of all counties and New York City will be far in the hole in sales-tax receipts for their current fiscal year,” said New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario in a statement. “Add to that the projected losses in hotel occupancy taxes, gaming revenues and the state reimbursement cuts of up to 20% and you’ve got a situation in which without direct federal aid from Washington, counties could be looking at additional cuts to services and staff right as the pandemic is picking up speed again.”
Keeler said he does not expect Columbia County to continue to show taxable sales numbers that have increased from the previous year. For the year as a whole, the county is down by about 1.7% of its taxable sales from last year as of Monday, Dec. 14. So far, for the fourth quarter the county is down by about 7.9%.
“Obviously this is COVID-related, it’s pandemic-related,” Keeler said. “Earlier in the summer period our pandemic numbers went down, we reached a low for our number of COVID cases and during that time we started to see some signs of tourism coming back, indoor dining came back at a reduced capacity, and that’s reflected from the higher taxable sales numbers during that time period.”
An earlier report from the New York State Association of Counties reported that both Columbia and Greene counties had seen a decrease in their total taxable sales during the earlier part of the year. During the first quarter of the year, Columbia County was down by about $32 million or about 11.8% in its taxable sales when compared to the year prior. Greene County was down during this time period by about $12.3 million or 6.3% the year before. During this time the majority of industries showed a decrease in sales in both counties, but in both counties beer, wine and liquor sales were up during this time period.
“Despite some improvement over the summer when the spread of the virus was low, the vast majority of local governments around the state are still seeing sales-tax revenues fall far short of what they budgeted for their current fiscal year,” said Jack Marren, New York State Association of Counties president and Ontario County chairman. “As counties are once again on the front lines of the battle against a second wave of the virus, it is absolutely vital that leaders in Washington reach an agreement that provides the direct aid that local governments need to stop the spread and assist with the distribution of a vaccine.”