Local sales tax collections in 2013 totaled $14.9 billion, $739 million — 5.2 percent — more than in 2012, according to a report this week from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The increase was higher than the 3.3 percent growth from 2011 to 2012 and 5 percent in 2011. The 15-year annual average growth was 4.5 percent, the report said.
“This is welcome news for our municipalities and comes at a time when local revenues have been experiencing little to no growth,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The majority of the increase appears to stem from storm clean up, which gives these communities a short-term boost. As the economy continues its tenuous recovery, sales tax collections could vary either way for local governments and is generally a more volatile source of revenue.”
Sales tax revenue comprised 31 percent of all county revenues, their largest single revenue source.
The growth in county sales tax collections, not including New York City, was 3.8 percent from 2012 to 2013. Most of the growth was in downstate regions, which received 5.9 percent more than the previous year. In upstate counties, however, growth was only 1.7 percent.
Long Island got the largest boost in tax collections at 6.9 percent and the Hudson Valley had an increase of 4.2 percent. The bumps were 2.6 percent in Western New York, 2.4 percent in the Mohawk Valley, 2.3 percent in Central New York and 2 percent in the Finger Lakes. New York City’s increase in sales tax collections was $406 million, 6.8 percent higher than in 2012.
The Southern Tier was the only region with a decrease — -2.3 percent. DiNapoli said it’s likely that was because there was a return to normal levels following higher-than-average collections in the wake of hurricanes Irene and Lee in 2012.
Collections grew in 43 of the remaining 57 counties. Standouts were Essex County (8.8 percent), Hamilton County (8.2 percent) and Washington County (6.9 percent). Some of the sharpest declines in the 14 other counties were 5 percent each for Schoharie and Tioga counties.
Rockland, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties saw significant increases due to rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy — 8.1 percent for Rockland, 6.2 percent for Westchester, 6.8 percent for Nassau and 6.9 percent for Suffolk.
The report pointed out that fourth quarter sales tax collections in 2013 marked the weakest period of growth since the first quarter of 2010.