Jun. 10—PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County sales-tax revenues now outpace budgeted projections by about $3.28 million.
"I'm surprised that (County Administrator Michael) Zurlo is not doing somersaults up there," County Treasurer Kimberly Davis said during last week's finance committee meeting.
Davis noted that actual revenue is 10.64% higher than it was this time last year, but she also took a look at 2019 numbers for a historical perspective.
"We're even just a little bit above that," she said.
"If you recall, 2019 was a very good year for us," Zurlo added. "So if we're at or above our 2019 rates, that's a good dynamic."
He also pointed to how, still in the midst of COVID-19 and the ongoing closure of the Canadian border to nonessential traffic, the legislature adopted a 2021 budget that included an 8.5% decrease to sales-tax projections.
Despite the positive numbers, Davis remained cautious.
"I always worry that there is going to be some adjustment later on, but for now we will absolutely take this very good news."
ELASTICITY OF GOODS
Referencing a recent conversation with a local business owner who has been forced to raise the price of goods, Legislator Calvin Castine (R-Area 1) expressed concern about the potential impact of inflation on sales-tax revenues.
Davis said any evidence of that would not be seen for a couple of months, but suggested the numbers would probably continue to increase, citing how prices for commodities and gas are up.
Zurlo added that he believed Castine was referencing a possible tipping point at which people may purchase less due to price increases.
"I guess it all depends on the elasticity of whatever that good is," he continued. Zurlo gave as an example how people in the North Country depend on cars to travel due to the proximity of rural areas.
"Gasoline is a fairly inelastic good here, so as gas prices go up, the sales tax will also increase proportionally."
Legislator Simon Conroy (D-Area 4) said the county should be preparing for a big influx once the U.S.-Canada border reopens.
Politico reported this week that, according to mayors of Canadian border cities, the Trudeau government has signaled that, so long as the country's vaccination campaign remains on track, it could start easing COVID restrictions at the border on June 22.
Davis said Tuesday that she does not expect the border to be fully open any time soon.
"So therefore that would not have any kind of significant impact on our sales tax in the near future."
Deputy County Treasurer Rebecca Murphy presented a summary of the county's 2020 annual report, which found that, despite challenges faced due to COVID-19, the county's unassigned fund balance increased from 2019 to 2020 by just more than $3 million.
"This is unaudited, these are unadjusted numbers, our audit is still taking place," Murphy noted. "But I just wanted to give everybody an update as far as where we were. That's really great news."
She believes the furlough programs implemented by the county played a major role.
"Our overall general fund expenses reduced by over $2 million, which roughly was the salary and fringe reduction throughout the year."
Murphy added that there were increases in the highway road, highway machinery and landfill funds, and decreases in interest earnings and Plattsburgh International Airport's unrestricted fund balance.
The airport was allocated relief funding in three pieces of federal legislation. Murphy said the first was factored into the 2020 report, and that the other two would mostly affect 2021.
Zurlo credited the legislators with allowing for the implementation of savings measures last year, including the furlough programs and tightening of operational budgets.
Davis said Tuesday that auditors are set to present on the finalized version of the annual report at the Finance Committee's August meeting.
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