County sales tax revenue drops

QUEENSBURY - For many years, economic observers have said that national economic trends hit us late, and with less severity, in the North Country.

This week the first half of this maxim was substantiated, as the latest sales tax figures indicated that the nation's souring economy had finally hit home in Warren County.

Sales tax receipts in the county for the fourth quarter of 2008 were $11.1 million, an 8 percent decrease from the same period in 2007, according to figures provided this week by the county Treasurer's office.

Friday, Warren County supervisors heard the news from county Treasurer Frank O'Keefe.

County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty said Tuesday the sales tax revenue decline was not unexpected.

"Obviously, we need to be concerned if this trend continues for a long time," he said.

Warren County officials, however, had anticipated the decline in preparing their budget for 2009, and the revenue drop won't crimp the financial plan unless the decrease accelerates substantially, he said.

"Based on the money we've budgeted, we still should finish both 2008 and 2009 okay," he said. "We have a little leeway remaining."

Statewide, sales tax revenues experienced a 5.8 percent decline for the fourth quarter of 2008.

The state tallied $5.5 billion in sales taxes between October and December 2008, according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

This statewide decline was the steepest quarterly decline since 1992, when collections declined by nearly 15 percent.

Warren County last sales tax revenue declines were recorded in the first quarters of both 2007 and 2005, Geraghty said.

The Warren County sales tax figures released this week reversed an earlier trend for 2008, however, that was encouraging.

The prior nine months, while municipalities across the nation saw sales and jobs evaporating, Warren County's sales had remained robust.

For the first three quarters of 2008, Warren County had generated $37.5 million in sales tax revenue, an increase of $1.5 million or a 4.2 percent increase over the same period in 2007.

For the entire year of 2008, Warren County collected $48.6 million in sales tax revenue - setting a historical record - or $542,290 more than 2007, representing an increase of 1.1 percent over 2007

These figures mirrored the statewide collections, which were up 1.3 percent over 2007.

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