Sales tax collections dropped a quarter in April, state reports

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Sales tax collections in Oneida County declined 24.6 % in April from the same month a year earlier, as pandemic-related restrictions on the economy began to take their full effect, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported.

The report said collections for the county government amounted to about $8.2 million, compared to $10.9 million a year earlier. Collections for the city of Rome were down 26.6%, 27.8% for Utica and down more than 31% for the city of Oneida.

DiNapoli’s report was not totally bad news, as it showed collections in the months before April were ahead of last year.

But the report shows how deeply the restrictions designed to keep people from gathering to keep down the spread of the disease have affected the economy and local governments, officials said.

Sales taxes are the largest single revenue source for Oneida County government, accounting for about 20% of its $439 million 2020 budget.

County legislators were scheduled today to consider measures approving nearly $7 million in budget adjustments proposed by the administration of County Executive Anthony Picente Jr.

Picente seeks legislative approval of moving the money into contingency accounts, essentially cancelling that amount of spending unless the fiscal picture changes.

The plans call for no layoffs or furloughs of employees, but include leaving vacancies and new positions unfilled, reductions in overtime and similar spending, as well as many cost saving measures in all county departments.

The Sheriff’s Office is subject to a reduction in salaries alone of $1 million.

Picente said the decrease in April collections was not as bad as he had expected given how far they dropped off when business restrictions were imposed in mid-March.

He said he initially feared a 50% reduction in the county’s sales tax revenues.

More spending reductions are likely unless the federal and state governments help local governments, Picente said Tuesday. “It’s really only going to cover a couple months.”

State aid would seem unlikely, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that without $61 billion in federal aid, several major areas of state government could see 20 percent reductions. The state is facing a revenue shortfall estimated as much as $15 billion.

Congressional leaders are negotiating a new relief bill, but no deals have been announced, and how much aid to send to state and local governments is a point of contention. 

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