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Jefferson County quarterly sales tax revenue dip may be due to Fort Drum deployments

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County officials are publicly expressing concern that sales tax revenues may fall below their projections, following the release of totals for the first fiscal quarter.

On Saturday, County Legislator Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown and chairman of the Board of Legislators’ Finance and Rules Committee, said the numbers could be linked to recent deployments at Fort Drum.

“We respect Fort Drum has a job to do. ... We can’t be so selfish that they have to stay here to spend money. They have a job to do.” Mr. Gray said. “However, it does have an effect on our economy.”

The county’s calculation, issued Friday evening, showed that the county received $7,619,090 during the quarter, a mere 0.89 percent more than the same period last year. For fiscal year 2013, the county’s budget projects $34,250,000 in sales tax revenues —a 3.79 percent increase from last year’s budgeted total of $33 million.

“The bottom line is that making budget will be tight as of this point in time,” Mr. Gray had said in an email message Friday.

About 3,000 to 3,500 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams deployed to Afghanistan this winter, soon to be joined by about 2,200 personnel from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Other factors also could have contributed to the flat sales tax figures, Mr. Gray said, but the impact of the troop numbers on the local economy is more quantifiable.

After strong tax revenue numbers for January and February, the county’s tax revenues in March dropped 10 percent from the year before. However, figures from the county showed a similar drop occurred in 2011 and 2009.

Mr. Gray said Saturday that the March totals usually include revenue adjustments for previous months, and within the next week he would determine more about the cause for the monthly drop.

His email Friday said the numbers were a “less than stellar” start to the year.

He also presented a pair of scenarios about budget performance: If the projections are based on last year’s sales tax collections alone, the county would hit its $34,250,000 target this year with only $145,388 to spare. However, if the projections were based on an average tally from the 2008 through 2012 fiscal years, the county would collect $33,456,095, about 2.32 percent under its goal.

The county’s sales tax calculation can be found at: www.scribd.com/doc/135772901/Jefferson-County-NY-1st-Quarter-Sales-Tax.

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