Ulster collected more sales tax in 2020 than 2019

(Dion Ogust)

County Executive Pat Ryan today announced Ulster County’s 2020 sales tax numbers, which were up from 2019 but over $1 million less than what was projected in the budget, created pre-pandemic.

According the county executive’s office, in 2020, the total sales tax revenue was $127,305,759, in increase of $10,175 from 2019. Through September of last year, the county’s sales tax numbers were down 7.8 percent, or $5.8 million. However, it rallied from October 2020 through February 2021, with an increase of 11.37 percent or $5.9 million over the previous year.

A release from the county executive’s office explains the change: “Despite strong economic headwinds, the county’s strong sales tax revenue resurgence demonstrates the results of the stimulus payments from the federal government in addition to the economic measures taken by the county in response to the pandemic.”

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Ryan said the results, “reaffirm Ulster County’s strong financial footing and highlight our effective economic recovery and support efforts. This is very encouraging news for our local businesses, and for every taxpayer in the county.”

Separately today, Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher issued a report on the same topic, noting that sales-tax revenues were within 1 percent of what was projected ($1.28 million less than the $128,561,423 that was budgeted).

The report also said the state “diverted” $1.52 million in 2020 from Ulster County sales tax revenues in two ways:  Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM-related) diversions and new Distressed Provider Assistance diversions, both of which involve the state withholding county sales-tax revenue and distributing it to other recipients.

“New York State is diverting sales tax revenue that counties rely upon to offset property taxes and provide services needed more than ever during the pandemic,” said Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher. “The state has provided no transparency as to how the new Distressed Provider Assistance diversions will be allocated or used when they ought to be coming back to communities in need like ours. At a time when Ulster County residents have lost access to our inpatient mental health and detox beds at Health Alliance, these diversions are a slap in the face. While Health Alliance – and its parent company Westchester Medical – realize savings by cutting services, the cost has been transferred onto the backs of Ulster County families in gas, tolls, time and, most importantly, lives as some people do not get the care they need because of a lack of access.”

The comptroller’s report also analyzed which sectors of the local economy were affected most by the pandemic-related restrictions, for good or ill. Traveler Accommodations took the hardest hit,  down 43 percent in the March through November 2020 period compared to the same period in 2019. Restaurants and gasoline sales also declined, while grocery sales and building materials saw increases. Internet sales were up 124 percent but the comptroller’s office said some of the increase were due to changes in the way taxes were collected for online transactions.

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