January 16, 2014


Sales tax revenue higher

$27.7M in total earnings nearly $700K more than budgeted

SalesBob Ellis/staff photographer
Customers fill up Thursday evening at a Sunoco gas station in Homer. Higher gas prices last year likely contributed to rising sales tax revenue in 2013.

Staff Reporter

Cortland County’s final sales tax figures for 2013 brought the county’s year-end revenue total to $14,378,584, which is about 2.5 percent more than what the county budgeted to receive for the year.
County Administrator Martin Murphy reported on the earnings at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday.
Murphy said the figures are preliminary since the state has a period of time to adjust them, but he said these adjustments are usually negligible so the figures are reliable.
Total sales tax earnings for 2013 were $27,651,122, which is $693,622 more than what was budgeted for the year. Of that total figure, the county’s share is 52 percent, the city’s is 18.2 percent and the towns and villages share the other 29.8 percent.
The county also made an $840,000 payment to Motorola this month on the county’s $16 million emergency communications upgrade, Murphy said, and the earnings he reported do not reflect that deduction.
The county has about $6 million remaining to pay Motorola, according to its lease agreement, said county Fiscal Manager Carolyn Kennedy. The agreement called for about an $843,680 yearly payment, but this payment will be lowered after Kennedy made a $2 million lump sum payment (from grant funds) in January.
The annual payment comes off the top of the sales tax earnings prior to distribution to the municipalities.
The county is also paying off a $3.4 million bond for the radio upgrade over about 25 years. This is paid off in annual payments of about $190,000, also from sales tax in specific quarterly payments.
Murphy attributed the spike in sales tax to things like growing consumer confidence and gas prices holding steady. But he noted that the last two periods of the year saw a slight dip from 2012. The time period comes just after Christmas, he said, and added the dip is not alarming but worth noting.
“I think slowly as we continue to dig out from the recession, I think consumer spending until the last two periods was gaining confidence,” said Murphy.
The county budgeted to receive $27,405,000 in total sales tax for 2014, about $447,500 more than 2013, or a 2 percent increase.
Murphy said he is conservative when budgeting for sales tax earnings because he does not want to be in a situation of falling short on his projections.
Vendors collect the county’s and state’s 4 percent sales tax fees and pass the money to the state. The state returns the county sales tax payments to the county twice a month, except for June and December, when it makes three.
Murphy said the excess funds will go into fund balance and then there will be discussion about whether to use the surplus. Kennedy said some outstanding bills from 2013 will be paid through February so she could not estimate how much may remain to put into fund balance.


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