Local governments across the state, including in the north country, are continuing to see decreased sales tax revenue, according to a report released Thursday by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
The dropoff in tax revenue is directly caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent statewide lockdown, according to Mr. DiNapoli.
“Since the pandemic hit, local governments have seen a massive drop in sales tax collection,” he wrote in a news release. “This is hurting their bottom lines, and many have few options to plug the hole.”
Mr. DiNapoli said federal assistance is required to help local governments “weather this storm.”
Statewide, local governments collected nearly 8% less in sales taxes over the month of August when compared to this time last year. While this is much improved from the more than 30% drop they saw in May, that still accounts for a significant amount of money.
The six counties which make up the north country collectively reported a loss of 11.7% last month, when compared to August 2019. Jefferson County saw the steepest drop. In August 2019, the county took in $7.3 million in sales tax revenue. This year, the county saw a drop of 14.1%, taking in only $6.3 million this August.
St. Lawrence County reported the second worst drop. In August 2019, the county took in $5.2 million in sales tax revenue. This year, that total dropped by around $700,000, or 12.5%, to $4.5 million.
Lewis County was impacted the least. In August 2019, the county took in $1 million in sales tax revenue, and this year’s total was about $50,000 lower, for a percentage drop of 5.2%.
Overall, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have lost about $1.75 million.
Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, said these lost sales tax dollars mean that Jefferson County will be unable to make its budget goals for this year.
“We are probably not going to make budget,” he said. “Any time a major revenue stream like sales tax does not meet expectations, generally the first thing we do is use fund balance.”
Mr. Gray, like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, has repeatedly called for the federal government to issue some sort of assistance to local and state governments, and he reiterated that on Thursday.
“We need some stabilization, and the federal government, it has the ability to provide that stabilization,” he said.