Cayuga County is experiencing a significant increase in sales tax revenue from 2016 to 2017. However, the city of Auburn is not and the reason for the discrepancy is not easily explained.
According to the latest monthly sales tax report from the Cayuga County Treasurer's Office, Cayuga County as a whole has seen a 7.7-percent increase in sales tax revenue from last year to this year through November. That translates to increased funds for the county's operations, and also more money being shared with the county's towns and villages — but not the city. Auburn receives sales tax only from purchases made in the city, due to a preemption policy adopted by the city in the 1990s.
Comparing numbers from 2016 to 2017, all Cayuga County towns combined have received 13.4-percent more money from sales taxes, and the villages have experienced a 15-percent increase. In the same time frame, the city is looking at a 1.1-percent decrease.
City Comptroller Laura Wills said the decrease is "not significant."
"Sales tax is very unpredictable," Wills said.
During an interview with The Citizen, Willis said she could not give a reason as to why the city's sales tax revenues are not increasing like the county's are, but said the the city is projecting "really close" to budget so far this year.
"$80,000 out of $32 million budget — that's less than a quarter of a percent," she said.
Jim Orman, the county treasurer, speculated that consumer confidence, decreasing unemployment rates, tourism and rising gas prices could all contribute to the rise in the county's sales tax revenue. He, like Wills, could not determine a definite reason as to why the city is not seeing the same increases as the rest of the county, only suggesting that it "could be purchases are down in the city."
"There is no cut-and-dry reason," he said. "It's hard to pinpoint what does drive this."
Orman said that employment rates and consumer confidence levels often go hand-in-hand.
"I can only speculate that consumer confidence is up," Orman said. "Cars, appliances — people are buying those things more."
"Unemployment is down, more people are working and if they're working, they're buying things," he added. "All of those things contribute and right now they're contributing in a positive fashion."
Overall, increased revenue generated from sales tax is a big benefit to the county. The extra money helps to offset other expenses that have gone over their projected budgets, Orman said. Any extra money goes into the county's fund balance, which helps to keep taxes down.
"It's a real benefit to taxpayers," Orman said.