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Jefferson County sales tax take down five quarters in a row; budget off by more than $700K in 2013

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Jefferson County missed its budget mark by more than $700,000 in 2013 and was down more than $550,000 from its 2012 sales tax take, according to figures provided by Jefferson County Board of Legislators Finance and Rules Committee Chairman Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown.

But perhaps of greater concern, according to Mr. Gray, is the downward trend for the tax, which has been sliding away from estimates for the last five quarters in the longest stretch of negative adjustments since 2008-09.

“...We are not faring as well as the balance of the state in collections. We were outperforming the state in 2010, 11 & 12 and now we are lagging. A reason for concern — yes certainly,” Mr. Gray said in an email to legislators.

The county fell short of making its budget this year by $708,195 and saw a decrease in sales tax revenue of $550,849 from 2012, Mr. Gray told legislators.

In October, Mr. Gray predicted a budget shortfall of $500,000 to $750,000 for the year.

In November, the county halved a proposed 4.4 percent increase in its tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — in part by increasing the prediction of how much money the county would take in from sales tax in 2013.

That move, which was viewed at the time as a practical way to keep the county from raising property taxes, has started to look less and less prudent as time has passed, placing additional pressure on future budgets and revenue estimates.

The county has estimated it will receive $34,250,000 in sales tax revenue in 2014.

To meet that projection, the county will need to see an increase of approximately 2.5 percent in sales tax collections over the next year — an increase that would be conservative according to historical data but is beginning to look more aggressive compared to the most recent five quarters, Mr. Gray said.

Any proposed amendments to the budget or additional expenditures should not be considered without a matching revenue stream to support those proposals, Mr. Gray contends.

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