A Statement by NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario on County Home Rule Sales Tax Authority

NYSAC calls on the members of the State Assembly and Senate to provide counties with permanent authority to continue their current sales tax rates.

The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) and its membership of the 57 counties and the City of New York fully expect that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo will advance legislation to extend Mayoral control of the NYC school system and his proposed legislation extending the permanent sales tax authority for counties. Both should be approved as part of this Extraordinary Session.

The Governor advanced legislation, S.6566 (Flanagan), which passed the Senate on June 21, 2017. The bill grants permanent authority for counties to extend their existing sales tax rates by a vote of their legislative body every two years. [Read NYSAC's full report on County Sales Tax Authority.]

NYSAC calls on the members of the State Assembly and Senate to provide counties with permanent authority to continue their current sales tax rates, a local home rule revenue authority New York City was granted nearly a decade ago but has not been provided to counties. These local sales tax revenues enable counties and other local governments that receive a share of these revenues, to pay for state mandated programs and provide critical local services that would otherwise disappear.

The lack of action on county home rule requests during the regularly scheduled legislation session demonstrates the need for permanent authority. The consequence of inaction impacts the ability of counties (and the cities, towns, and villages who share these sales tax revenues) to govern and provide programs and services at the local level. It will also impact the cost of borrowing, as rating agencies are likely to downgrade local governments' ability to finance publicly-issued bonds. 

The continued inaction, uncertainty, and lack of leadership at the state level will do nothing to prevent increased property taxes, keep families here, attract jobs, or improve the quality of life in our great state.

Our member counties have asked the State Legislature to give them the authority to serve their communities, and we as their representative association call on the Governor and State Legislature to grant permanent sales tax authority to all New York counties.
Reaction from County Leaders:
Cattaraugus County Administrator Jack Searles: In 2017, we budgeted for $9,562,000 in revenue from this 1 percent sales tax, all of which is used for DPW projects.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz: If no action is taken, Erie County anticipates lost revenue of $24 million in December 2017 alone and recurring annual revenue losses of $266.2 million going forward.  The loss of this funding would have an immediate negative effect on multiple county programs and would force drastic reductions in funding for road repairs, anti-opioid efforts, libraries, arts and cultural organizations, the Sheriff's road patrol, parks, and many more county-provided services.  It would also incur hardship on many municipalities that depend on sharing sales tax revenues with the county, with an anticipated annual revenue loss of $12.5 million for them.  This would mean severe cutbacks in cities, towns, villages, and school districts across Erie County.

Franklin County Treasurer Bryon Varin: Franklin County generates approximately $500 million in taxable sales each year.The 1 percent tax extension...would represent $5 million dollars in lost revenue over the course of a year. It would create a huge burden on the county's taxpayers.
Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell: It's a big ripple effect. If the state doesn't pass the home rule sales tax extenders, the county would have to lay off people, renegotiate contracts, and stop working on projects.

Jefferson County Chairman Scott A. Gray: The county would lose about $10 million, the city would lose $5 million and the remaining municipalities would also lose $5 million. They are asking for an adversarial relationship, and this is one way to get it.

Lewis County Manager Elizabeth Swearingin: Lewis County could be looking at a $2.8 million gap without the extender, based on its 2016 sales tax collections of about $11.4 million. It's frustrating beyond belief.

Livingston County Administrator Ian Coyle: The extra 1 percent is roughly $8 million, so this inaction is a major, major issue. Passage cannot not happen. It would be too disastrous to counties Upstate and property taxes would soar. The State Legislature should simply get these out of the way early in the (legislative) session and focus the rest of the legislative calendar on real issues impacting New Yorkers.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo: The county would face a $83 million gap without the sales tax extension. It is unfortunate that session ended in Albany without passing the sales tax extension for counties which has been in place for many years.

Suffolk Legislator DuWayne Gregory: The county already faced a budget shortfall and the loss of sales tax could mean draconian cuts to services and massive layoffs.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano: The sales tax extender impacts the county, as well as every town and city in Nassau, and we expect the state to act in the near future to protect important services and programs.

Niagara County Legislator Randy Bradt: The loss of that penny on the dollar would cost county coffers an estimate $31.5 million next year. We're watching this issue very closely, as the lack of a sales tax extender would have a devastating impact on our county's fiscal stability. Even if, as we expect, this is ultimately passed, this is causing significant uncertainty while we're trying to assemble our county budgets for 2018. The lack of a sales tax extender bill means we are unable to project our revenues, and in the short run, it hurts efforts like economic development, where we can't provide certainty to prospective businesses looking to locate in our county.

Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino: There will be significant cuts to services, significant property tax increases or both in all levels of local government, including the county, cities, towns and villages.

Seneca County Manager John Sheppard: Without the extra 1 percent, the county stands to lose $5.75 million in sales tax revenue for 2018. To make that much revenue up, the tax levy would need to increase an estimated 58 percent.That would mean the tax rate would go from $4.50 to $7.80 per $1,000 of assessed value... If they can't agree or can't even come back in for a special session, we have to take steps to deal with the impacts of losing that much revenue.

Yates County Legislative Chairman Timothy Dennis: The failure to act could cost us about $3 million. That will devastate our budget and cause either massive cutbacks or an unacceptable local property tax increase. It is time for the state government to act in a responsible manner and pass these extenders. 

Media Contact:
Mark F. LaVigne, Deputy Director
New York State Association of Counties
518-465-1473; 518-429-0189 (cell)
The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving the counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC's mission is to represent, educate, advocate for, and serve member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.