Wednesday 1 February 2023
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What’s the Connection Between Wearing Masks and Sales Tax Revenue Going Up?

Patti Singer

COVID-19 has drastically reduced sales tax revenue across the state. File photo

Sales tax revenue in Monroe County was up in June compared to a year ago, according to data released by the Office of the State Comptroller.

But overall, the second quarter for Monroe and counties across the state was wretched because of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Monroe County entered phase four of the state’s reopening plan in June, but some segments of the economy still are closed or limited. Sales tax revenue was up 3.4% over the same time last year.

Protecting the economy is one reason public health officials continue to urge people to wear masks, stay physically distant and practice good hand hygiene.

The rate of COVID-19 infection in Monroe County appears low. About 4% of tests have come back positive, according to data from the Monroe County Department of Public Health. About 1% of residents who respond to a daily survey report symptoms, according to Common Ground Health.

Precautions such as masks, staying apart and washing hands reduce the likelihood of rapid, widespread transmission that would overwhelm hospitals and shut down the economy again.

Both Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello have over the past few months gone into detail about how the loss of sales tax – a major source of revenue for municipalities – has affected current and upcoming budgets.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a news release that the drop in local collections likely would have been worse if the state had not started in 2019 to tax smaller online vendors. (New York already receives taxes on most sales made by the largest online retailers.) Preliminary data released by the state Department of Taxation and Finance shows the expanded collections gave local governments a substantial boost in revenue from March 2019 to February 2020.

Overall for the Finger Lakes region, sales tax revenue was up 5.6% in June compared to the same time a year ago.

In April, the region had a 25.4% decline in sales tax revenue over the previous April and in May, the region had a year over year decline of 35.4%.

Monroe County saw a 24.6% decline in the revenue in April and a 36.7% decline in May.

From January to June, the region had a 4.9% decline from the previous year. Monroe County saw a 6.1% decline from the previous year.

New York shut down all but essential business in late March. Phase 1 of the reopening began in mid-May. Monroe County and the Finger Lakes Region have been at the forefront of each reopening phase and health and economic leaders have said it’s because residents are following safety recommendations.