Capital Region sales tax revenue down one-third in May amid COVID shutdown

State comptroller report suggests significant shortfall for counties unless feds provide help
Shops closed in the Clifton Park Center, mostly empty from closures due to COVID-19 on March 25, 2020.
Shops closed in the Clifton Park Center, mostly empty from closures due to COVID-19 on March 25, 2020.

Categories: Business, News

ALBANY — Sales tax revenue in Capital Region counties was down as much as 39% in May 2020 compared with May 2019 as people stayed home and spent less money at local merchants because of COVID-19.

The economic shutdown imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to control the pandemic led to widespread business closures and extensive unemployment, meaning there were fewer places to spend money and perhaps more hesitation by consumers in spending it.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Friday issued a monthly report on local sales tax collections, an important source of municipal revenue and a key indicator of consumer activity.


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He added a caveat: his report doesn’t factor in online spending, which has boomed during the pandemic.

Here are the totals for Capital Region counties, with dollars of revenue in May 2020 and percentage change from May 2019:

  • Albany $15.4M -29.5%
  • Fulton $1.1M -39.3%
  • Montgomery $1.6M -35.2%
  • Rensselaer $4.7M -38.8%
  • Saratoga $6.5M – 35.6%
  • Schenectady $5.3M -36.7%
  • Schoharie $0.7M -36.9%

“We anticipated that sales tax revenues would continue to drop because of COVID-19 but the May sales tax figures show just how deep it is cutting into municipal finances,” DiNapoli said in a news release Friday. “Sales tax revenues are vital funding not only for the state but for municipalities like counties and cities as well. The federal government needs to step up and provide financial help to states and local governments hit hard by this virus to avoid severe cuts to critical services.”

In most counties, the year-over-year decline in May was greater than the decline seen in April.

Counties and cities statewide collected $918 million in sales tax in May 2020, 32.3% less than May 2019.

In April 2020, they collected $1.02 billion, 24.2% less than in April 2019.


However, January, February and even March 2020 each saw higher sales tax revenue in most Capital Region counties than in the same months of 2019.

So the net decline for the first five months of 2020 is not huge. In the Capital Region, the five-month change ranges from -4.0% in Montgomery County to -13.9% in Rensselaer County.

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