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Counties see sales-tax uptick

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Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties each saw a sales-tax collection uptick in the second quarter of 2012, a sign of a still-recovering economy that could result in lower property taxes in Jefferson County.

In St. Lawrence County, sales tax for the second quarter was $10.5 million. That represents an increase over last year during the same period of $157,713.33, a hike of 1.5 percent.

That type of climb is what the county was used to seeing before the economy collapsed in 2008, Treasurer Kevin M. Felt said.

“I think the increases that we saw a year or so ago are starting to flatten out,” he said. “These are slow, but steady.”

According to anecdotal reports, the county has also been helped by cross-border shoppers as the Canadian dollar buys more state-side, Mr. Felt said.

So far this year, the county has collected $20.6 million, an increase of $453,519.36 over 2011 figures for the same time period.

That puts the county on track to meet its predicted collection for 2012 of $41.2 million, especially since fourth-quarter results when people are buying for Christmas tend to be among the highest of the year.

The county keeps half of what is collected. Of the remaining half, the city of Ogdensburg receives 6.4 percent. The towns and villages receive the rest.

“We’re right on target to meeting budget,” Mr. Felt said.

Lewis County’s sales tax revenues rebounded from a first quarter in the doldrums with a 3.8 percent second-quarter increase, from $2.42 million in 2011 to $2.51 million this year.

The county has collected $4.78 million so far this year, up from $4.71 million at this point last year.

County Manager David H. Pendergast said the figures were a good sign, given that the county has collected more than half of the $9 million budgeted for 2012.

“It shows that people may be traveling more as we come into the summer season,” he said.

Lewis County’s receipts dropped 1.3 percent in the first quarter, likely due in part to a poor snowmobiling season.

In Jefferson County, sales-tax revenues from April to the end of June stood at $18.6 million, an increase of nearly $2 million over the same timeframe in 2011. That is an 11 percent increase.

After doling out their portion of the sales-tax revenue to towns and villages, county government itself will take in $8.9 million, a pace that could mean from $1.5 million to $2.2 million in surplus from what the county had budgeted, according to an analysis from Legislator Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, the chairman of the Finance Committee.

If the figures remain constant, and without any major blowups on the spending side, the county could lower its property tax levy, Mr. Gray said.

“That’s what the ideal world will bring to us,” Mr. Gray said, while cautioning that unforeseen expenses, like pending litigation, could wipe out the sales-tax increase.

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