Warren County’s hopes of a robust start to the year revenue-wise came to a crashing halt thanks to the most recent state sales tax payment.
The first March state sales tax report showed a sharp drop for the month, with a 12.5% plunge when compared to the same month last year.
That amounted to $423,000 less in sales tax coming in during the month, and caused the receipts for the year to fall 2.1 percent below that of the first quarter last year as well.
County Treasurer Michael Swan said the March payment was from a state estimate of how sales were trending for the first quarter. Payments for the preliminary parts of the quarter are based on estimates, with the last payment what’s called a “true up” to balance the estimates with actual receipts.
Swan said his office has asked the state for an explanation as to what caused the estimate to drop, but had not heard back. He said the final payment of March was still to come later this month.
The drop was not welcome news for county leaders as the first financial quarter of the year comes to an end. But the county has been conservative in budgeting its sales tax revenue, with the 2019 spending plan calling for $52 million. That is actually $3 million less than the 2018 total.
County Administrator Ryan Moore said county leaders are watching the payments closely, but were not overly concerned yet.
The county is aware the state will be taking some sales tax receipts to supplement state aid to municipalities later this year, though.
“We do know that at some point the state will be withholding approximately $245,000 of our revenue in order to make the AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) payments to our towns and village,” he said. “That’s due to the recently enacted 2020 state budget.”
The county has a 3 percent sales tax that is charged on top of the 4 percent state sales tax, which along with neighboring Washington and Saratoga counties, is the lowest in the state.
Sales tax is a major revenue source for Warren County’s budget, making up more than a third of the revenue needed to fund county operations. The $55 million last year was the highest total on record.