Allegany County sales tax receipts jump after gas holiday expires

BREAKING – EXCLUSIVE: National headlines late last week of “Oil companies rake in huge profits amid consumer squeeze” appear to be applicable on a smaller scale to Allegany County, NY, government.

The State Comptroller is reporting that the county’s sales tax revenue in September, a month after the Board of Legislators allowed a gas tax holiday to expire, jumped by 11.9 percent over the same 30-day receipts last year, more than 63 percent higher than the state-wide average, although some 40 percent less than that for local governments outside of New York City.

September increases/decreases in neighboring counties were -7.6 percent in Cattaraugus, including -12.3 percent in the City of Olean, 42 percent in Wyoming, 2.7 in Livingston and 20 percent in Steuben.

The Comptroller also notes as part of his report that Allegany County received over 50 percent more than the state average in motor fuel sales tax last year when compared to its total sales tax receipts.

Gas tax holiday
Allegany had declared a gasoline tax holiday from June through August, capping sales tax collections at $3 per gallon, following the lead of New York State which dropped its tax by 16-cents per gallon through the end of the year due to skyrocketing costs of gas.

The county, however, didn’t renew the three-month savings for motorists and restarted collecting full tax in September. Prices, which had reached nearly $5 per gallon, have since moderated to under $4.

Cattaraugus County’s gas holiday continues through the end of the year, with 22 other counties in the state currently having a lower rate through the end of November, December or February, depending n the county, according to the latest release from the State Tax Department.

Allegany County, however, also continues to have the third highest general sales tax rate in the state, versus four percent in neighboring counties, although Allegany Hope Community News tracking indicates overall gasoline rates in the county are among the lowest in the Western Southern Tier, particularly in the Village of Cuba and surrounding area.

Charts from the Comptroller’s latest report accompany this story. The map above shows Allegany County having a five-to-10 percent increase in sales tax receipts for the July to September period, comparing 2021 and this year, with comparisons shown with other counties.

The chart below shows Allegany to be at least three percent above the 5.2 percent average of other counties in the state when it comes to the amount of money it collected in motor fuel sales tax last year versus its entire sales tax receipts. Only the chart was provided by the Comptroller, with no dollar breakdowns, making it difficult to determine the exact percentage.

Part of the higher percentage presumably is due to the county having a higher sales tax rate than most others in the state.

Changes in sales tax receipts
Allegany County had been receiving a hefty increase in overall sales tax this year over last, a portion of it presumably due to inflation – 21.2 in January, 34.8 in February, four percent in March, 28.5 in April, and 27.4 percent in May – until the gas holiday, when it recorded a 33.5 percent drop in June, and increases of 2.1 percent in July and 2.3 percent in August. It then jumped back up to the 11.9 percent in September when the holiday expired.

Overall, the county is showing a 6.2 percent increase in sales tax revenues for the first nine months of this year, receiving 21.7 million thus far in 2022 versus 20.4 million for the same period in 2021.

The county’s preliminary budget for next year, released last Wednesday, shows $25.5 million in estimated general sales tax revenue next year, compared with some $26.7 million in actual receipts last year, with only $23.5 million having been budgeted for the current 2022 fiscal year.

The county also took in an additional $165,000 in hotel taxes last year, versus a 2021 budget of $150,000 and actual receipts of some $132,000. It is estimating $170,000 in revenues in next year’s tentative budget.

The Comptroller, in his latest report, warns against using single month or quarterly numbers for fiscal projections due to fluctuations and adjustments which occur during the year.

County underestimating surplus
However, based on state data for all of last year, showing the county receiving $6.9 million in sales tax revenue for the final quarter of the year, the county could be underbudgeting its projected sales tax revenue for next year by some $3 million.

As Allegany Hope Community News reported exclusively at mid-month, independent auditors found the county had a nearly $32.8 million unassigned, or surplus, fund balance at the end of last year, some $3.4 million more than the entire county property tax levy for all of 2022.

They also reported that the county had received nearly $6.6 million in revenues over expenses, requiring no use of the $4.3 million in fund balance which county legislators applied to the current year’s budget.

Next year’s preliminary budget, in contrast, is estimating $30,344,460 in available fund balance at the end of this year, or some $2.5 million less than that actually reported at the end of 2021, but only is appropriating $3 million of it toward reducing the property tax levy.

For the current year’s budget, the county only estimated $31,260,890 surplus being available at the end of this year, some $1.6 million less than actual at the end of 2021.

Some of highest taxes in the state
Allegany County property owners, in addition to experiencing its high sales tax distinction, also have had the second highest property tax rate in the state since 2019. Before that it was in first place for many years.

Several Allegany towns and villages also are among the highest in the state, with nearly all being above the average as it relates to true value tax rates, as we reported exclusively earlier in the month.

The Comptroller’s latest sales tax report is available at https://bit.ly/3DpHolX and his 2021 full-year data at https://bit.ly/3sJDtvm.
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