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Sales tax receipts slipping in Saratoga County

Local sales tax receipts across the state have taken a sharp fall during the first seven months of 2009, including in Saratoga County, where county sales tax revenue was down 10.1 percent or more than $5.6 million when compared to the same time period last year, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Monday, Aug. 31.

Saratoga is one of six counties that experienced a double-digit decline, according to the report that examined records from the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Collectively, county sales tax receipts were down 7.6 percent, or $291 million, in New York's 57 counties. Just four counties posted a gain in collections.

Saratoga County Administrator David Wickerham questioned the accuracy of the data used in the report.

"We know that sales tax is off, but for us to be off more than the surrounding counties doesn't make much sense," he said.

He estimated that a drop in the price of gasoline year-to-year, consumer spending cutbacks on big-ticket items and, of course, a more cautious consumer attitude in general are contributing to a slide in sales tax revenues, but noted that those problems are not unique to Saratoga.

"All those things don't just affect us, they affect our neighbors and affect every county in the state," said Wickerham.

The traditional best months for tax receipts are yet to come, as well. September and December are typically the biggest retail months, as consumers flock to stores for back-to-school and holiday shopping. In Saratoga, in particular, August is a boon for the economy as thousands visit the track and nearby establishments.

"We haven't gotten the sales tax figures in for the summer season," said Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Joseph Dalton, who also questioned the accuracy of the figures. He said that going into 2009, county officials expected business to be off anywhere from 5 to 15 percent, but from his position he hasn't seen the downturn.

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