WATERTOWN — Local sales tax collections in April plummeted 24 percent across the state compared to a year ago, with most north country counties experiencing a similar slide due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Jefferson County saw the largest percent decrease between April 2019 and April 2020 at 26.9 percent, followed by Lewis County at 23.8 percent, Franklin County at 23.7 percent, Oswego County at 21.8 percent and St. Lawrence County at 19 percent.
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released figures Tuesday that showed sales tax collections statewide were down $327 million in April compared to last year, leaving counties, cities and some other local governments without revenue anticipated to help balance budgets.
“The coronavirus has hurt household finances, and the April sales tax figures show how deep it is cutting into municipal finances,” Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement. “Sales tax revenues are vital for the counties and cities that are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Jefferson County also led the way in terms of the total number of dollars lost year-to-year, dropping $1.6 million from $5.9 million in April 2019 to $4.3 million this year. St. Lawrence County lost $900,000, going from $4.5 million to $3.6 million, Oswego County lost $800,000, from $3.6 million to $2.8 million, Franklin County lost $400,000, from $1.7 million to $1.3 million and Lewis County lost $200,000, from $900,000 to $700,000.
The state started its “New York State on PAUSE” initiative March 22, closing nonessential businesses and offices and restricting travel. Mr. DiNapoli said first quarter sales tax collections had been “relatively strong,” but began dipping in March with the restrictions, resulting in a 3.7 percent statewide drop in collections between March 2019 and March 2020.
He said every county in every region of the state saw a large drop in collections in April. Unknown at this time, according to Mr. DiNapoli, is how collections are impacted by consumers’ growing reliance on e-commerce shopping for products that are now subject to state and local sales taxes.
“The federal government needs to provide assistance to those hit hard by this virus or the budget cuts could be severe in some communities,” he said.