County sales tax up, but not by much

Chautauqua County is still trying to bounce back from the recession.

This was evidenced by recent reports on sales tax collections from the New York State Association of Counties and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

Chautauqua County saw a sales tax percentage growth of .08 percent, or $212,992, for the first six months of 2014 for a total amount of $25,683,871 collected. Cattaraugus County experienced a 5.7 percent growth, or $973,352, while Erie County saw an increase of 1.9 percent.

“The projections right now are still slightly below where we want to be, but we’re still optimistic we will close that gap and get to where we want to be,” said Vince Horrigan, Chautauqua County executive. “Sales tax is a critical component of our revenues, and it’s not only important to us, but it spreads out across all of those who enjoy Chautauqua County, not just taxpayers.”

In discussion of upcoming 2015 budget preparations, Horrigan said an increase in sales tax would help close a structural deficit of $7 million.

Every other year, the state Legislature authorizes Chautauqua County to keep its 7.5 percent sales tax. In order to increase the sales tax, a resolution would have to be approved by the County Legislature, asking the state to grant permission.

Once signed by the governor, the law would come back to the County Legislature in order to exercise the authority granted to raise the sales tax.

Horrigan could not comment on possible future sales tax increases, but projected that the current rate would not decrease further.

Although total local sales tax collections have grown each quarter since the end of the 2008-09 recession, the rate of growth shows a downward overall trend.

The total collections for counties outside of New York City were basically flat for the first six months of 2014, according to the state Association of Counties. Excluding the four counties that increased sales tax rates, the average percentage change in each county was .01 percent.

Statewide, sales tax collections grew by $173 million, or 2.4 percent, for the first six months of 2014 compared to collections during the same period in 2013. That number is less than half of the 5.2 percent annual growth seen in 2013.