There is some good economic news for Onondaga County as the new year starts. Its income from sales tax is up. YNN's Bill Carey says the initial estimates show those dollars are up, substantially.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- It has become a part of everyday life. Buy something, anything from a new house to new shoes, and you pay a little bit more than just the price. You pay sales tax.
With mandatory costs rising and eating away at property tax revenues, sales tax revenues have become more and more important for local governments. The state government has been warning that its income from sales tax has been down in recent months. But, in Onondaga County, the news is quite different.
“For 2012, compared to 2011, on what we call a cash basis, we are up in collections almost $16 million, in 2012 from 2011, which is nearly a five percent increase. Clearly bucking all state trends,” said Robert Antonacci, Onondaga County Comptroller.
No one is quite sure, yet, what has caused the jump. Some of it traces back to higher gas costs. The Destiny USA expansion also has an impact.
Onondaga County's Chief Fiscal Officer, Steve Morgan, is already projecting a $15 million surplus in 2013. Nothing in the new sales tax report contradicts that expectation. The key now, he says, is to deal with the extra money in a way that strengthens the budget. That means the extra money won't necessarily mean a cut in property taxes.
“If you start using overage fund balance to support an operating budget, recurring expenses, you get yourself into a hole, year after year,” said Steve Morgan, Onondaga County Chief Fiscal Officer,
Instead, he and the county comptroller say the key is paying costs that are outside of those operating expenditures.
“What we'll call one-shots. Things that aren't a recurring expense. A capital project item. Retiring a bond. Those type of things,” said Antonacci.
“We're going to pay cash instead of borrowing. Save those interest costs, which are low now but, still, it costs money to borrow. Pay down debt. Refund debt earlier. Get those interest rates down. So, I think there's other things we can do with those dollars that actually gets money back in the taxpayer's pocket without actually funding operating expenses,” said Morgan.