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North country sales tax revenue rises with inflation, gas prices, car sales

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:33 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - People are spending money and that fact generates more sales tax for county governments.

October saw significant increases for all three counties in the north country. Inflation, gas prices, and car sales are all contributing factors.

“I have never seen us meet budget for the entire year in the third quarter,” said Scott Gray, Jefferson County Legislature chairman.

That’s right. Jefferson county collected an entire year of sales tax in just 9 months. And 2021 isn’t over.

“It’s unique. We probably will not see this kind of activity again,” said Gray.

But, the trend is continuing as the county starts the 4th quarter.

The state comptroller says in October, Jefferson County collected $7.1 million in sales tax, compared to $6.2 million last October. That’s a 14.8 percent jump.

Why? Gas prices are pumping more money to the county.

“A lot of it is inflation. A lot of it is fuel sales. The cost increases in fuel sales. There’s a lot of things that point to this is potentially an anomaly,” said Gray.

According to AAA, the state average is $3.56 per gallon. It was $2.22 last year.

Another area where people are spending money in Jefferson County? Car sales are strong.

In Lewis County, higher numbers too. It brought in $900,000 in sales tax in October 2020. This October there was an additional $200,000.

“It’s starting to feel like general economic increase as far as business activity. It still is surprising but it’s starting to, I don’t want to say become normal, we hope it’s normal, but there’s the chance it could go back down,” said Eric Virkler, Lewis County treasurer.

Leaders are aware of the saying, ‘what goes up must come down.’ In Jefferson County, Gray knows these numbers aren’t here to stay.

“That’s what I told the legislators in this budget cycle. We have a very sharp steep climb up. I said it’ll be just as fast and quick coming down,” he said.

St. Lawrence County had the largest jump in the tri-county region for the month of October, bringing in $6.5 million this year compared to $5 million last year. That’s a 30 percent increase in sales tax revenue, the third-highest increase of any county in the state.

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