Second-quarter sales tax receipts are down slightly in Erie County, according to the Comptroller’s Office, which this week distributed receipts of $139 million to the county and its municipalities. That figure is down about $621,742 from the same period last year, the significance of which is a matter of dispute between the Comptroller’s Office and the County Budget Office.
“That’s not a good trend,” said Gregory Gach, deputy comptroller for the accounting/fiscal division.
“It’s the point we’ve been making all year, that the administration’s sales tax revenue projections have been overly optimistic,” Gach added.
The Comptroller’s Office has been critical of the administration’s projection of a 3 percent annual growth in sales tax revenue.
However, Deputy Budget Director Timothy Callen described the difference between what was anticipated and what was collected in the second quarter as minor, even though he conceded that sales tax receipts for the first six months of the year have come in $3.2 million under budget.
“As we’re getting deeper into the summer shopping months, we’re seeing the negative variance going down and the sales tax growth inching upward. We’re closely monitoring it and expect that trend to continue,” Callen said.
The County Budget Office has projected $721 million in sales tax receipts for this fiscal year, $394.6 million of which has been budgeted for the county coffers.
The remainder, $326.4 million, has been budgeted for distribution to the municipalities in the county, as well as the school districts, the NFTA and the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority.
“The second quarter is not a big sales tax period. The third and fourth quarters are the highest for sales,” Callen said.
He added that the third and fourth quarters are, respectively, the periods for summer and back-to-school shopping and holiday shopping when, historically, there also is an influx of Canadian shoppers.
“But is it something we noticed and are paying attention to? Of course,” Callen said of the negative figures from the Comptroller’s Office.
Gach, however, said the decrease in sales tax receipts could have a significant impact on the county’s smaller municipalities, particularly if they budgeted for more revenue.
Out of the total amount of sales taxes collected for the second quarter, Erie County’s share is $97.4 million compared with the $97.7 million that the county took in for the same period in 2012. That’s a difference of nearly $303,000.
The remaining $41.7 million was distributed to the NFTA, the various school districts, as well as the cities, towns and villages in Erie County, which will share about $318,742 less than a year ago. The Comptroller’s Office said those various entities should receive their respective second-quarter sales tax revenue checks sometime this week. By state law, sales tax revenue for the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Public Schools is distributed directly to the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.
A complete list of the sales tax revenue distribution can be found on the county comptroller’s website at www.erie.gov/comptroller.
Meanwhile, the Budget Office issued a copy of the May Budget Monitoring Report that shows the county has a positive variance of $673,418, while negative variances for overtime persist in the sheriff’s division, jail management, the correctional division’s health programs and the safety net program in the Department of Social Services.