December 15, 2007


County sales tax revenue exceeds projections


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Angela Kowalewski of Cortland puts fuel in her car at the Sunoco station on the corner of Church and Port Watson streets Friday afternoon. When fuel prices increase, the county receives more sales tax revenue.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Sales tax revenue projections for the year show Cortland County will take in more than had been budgeted for, but much of the gains will be negated when a statewide accounting glitch is fixed next year.
Deputy Treasurer Carolyn Kennedy said projections anticipate $23.4 million in sales tax revenue countywide by the end of the year.
“We’re coming in above our projection of $23.1 million,” Kennedy said Friday.
However, an accounting error in the payments disbursed by the state for the third quarter added about $300,000 to the county’s share.
“There’s going to be some adjustment made in the second quarter of 2008,” Kennedy said, adding that it would be a negative adjustment.
“I think they’re (the county) being somewhat conservative next year, knowing that it’s going to affect the level we receive.”
She said without that anomaly, sales tax revenue for 2007 would have been in-line with the budgeted amounts.
The county will not know for sure what the total receipts for the year are until the end of January, when the December figures are released by the state.
“So far for the fourth quarter, we’re up comparatively to last year, about $80,000,” Kennedy said.
She said the increase is likely due to increases in fuel costs.
“We collect tax on fuel, so when the fuel prices go up, we do collect a little more sales tax than we would otherwise,” Kennedy said.
County Administrator Scott Schrader said the county’s projected share of the revenue should be between $12.8 million and $12.9 million.
The county had budgeted $12.7 million for 2007, based upon 55 percent of the countywide total under a sales tax sharing plan with the city and other county municipalities.
This year was the first year of the multi-year sales tax distribution agreement that will gradually reduce the county’s share of the revenue from 56 percent in 2006 to 54 percent by 2008. From 2009 to 2012, when the contract expires, the county will receive 52 percent of the countywide total.
“I budgeted the same revenue for the county (in 2008) as I did for the previous year, but you need to remember that we’re giving up an additional 1 percent,” Schrader said Wednesday.
Schrader and Kennedy said sales tax revenues usually increase by about 1 percent each year, but this year’s projections — which include the anomaly — show a 1.35 percent increase over 2006.
For 2009, when the sales tax revenue for the county itself will drop 2 percent, thereby eating up the marginal 1 percent growth, Schrader said he would likely budget in a sales tax revenue reduction.
“Unless something dramatic happens, there’s no way that the growth in sales tax is going to offset the percentage we’re giving back,” Schrader said.
“You never know how sales tax is going to go, but if people have less and less disposable income, than it will go down,” Kennedy said. “But fuel is probably something that they have to use anyways.”




City Hall roof leak highlights need for repairs

’60s-era building needs more than $1 million in work

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A water leak at City Hall has illustrated the long-known need for critical maintenance of the 40-year-old building.
The leak was discovered Monday morning in the third-floor hallway, the city courtroom, the office of the city clerk and the office of Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano, as city officials came in for work.
“The drawer of the cash register was completely filled with water,” said Deputy City Clerk Sherrie Massmann.
Massmann added that nothing was damaged and everything that did get wet was salvaged.
The leak did not affect anything electronic, such as the computers.
Damiano said the leak in his office missed his computer by only two feet.
“We fixed it that night but it needs some more work and we will be getting it done,” said Mayor Tom Gallagher. “This is just one more reason why we need to do critical maintenance to this building.”
Gallagher said the building was dedicated in 1968 and not many renovations have been done since then.
“The roof has been leaking for a couple of years now. We have just been patching it,” Damiano said. “We are just trying to keep the building afloat right now.”
Repair to Monday’s leak will cost the city about $2,000, Damiano said.
The money will come from the building and grounds department’s 2007 budget, which is expected to be $297,841.



Taylor proposes changing highway supt. position to 4-year term

TAYLOR — The town is taking steps to change its highway superintendent position from a two-year term to a four-year term.
Town Supervisor David Fuller said the Town Board has discussed the plan extensively and decided to proceed in trying to finalize the change before next year’s general election.
Fuller drafted a resolution for the term extension, which he presented to the Town Board at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The board accepted the resolution and a public hearing to lengthen the term of the Taylor Highway Superintendent will be held during the Town Board meeting on Feb. 12.
Fuller said the discussion of changing the position has been taking place for about a year and a half. He added that the extension would be beneficial for the town. It would provide more job security with a four-year term and thus increase the number of viable candidates for the position.
“A generality is that we get people who are retired looking to work for the town,” Fuller said. “This will provide other people with the opportunity to work for the town… It’s primarily a job security thing.”
Six towns in Cortland County have a four-year term for the highway superintendent position, while the rest have two-year terms, according to the county Board of Elections.
A referendum must be held in each town to lengthen the term of an elected official.