By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Sales-tax revenue for Clinton County saw a boost of about $1 million over September projections.
That puts the year’s total at about $3.4 million ahead of pace.
“It’s been going up every month, and September was amazing,” County Treasurer Joseph Giroux said.
Although details of where all the sales are coming from have yet to be finalized, preliminary reports show that sales of new cars is up slightly. But the bulk of the increase comes from retail sales, indicating a strong Canadian customer presence.
“They (Canadians) are here, and they are shopping, and they are spending,” Giroux said.
“It especially helps that the dollar is about at par.”
The county gets 4 of the 8 percent sales tax on items purchased, sharing some of it with its towns, and the state gets the other 4 percent.
Giroux said revenue from the county’s 3-percent occupancy tax is also way up, but figures have not yet been updated.
“But we do know it is way up,” he said.
Businesses are reporting large volumes of Canadian customers visiting throughout the summer and into the fall.
“The impact has been huge,” said Steve Carpenter, owner of Liquor and Wine Warehouse in Plattsburgh.
“It’s the most Canadians I’ve ever seen down here, and I’ve been in business 37 years.”
Carpenter said Canadian customers find prices less expensive here than in Montreal.
“When their money is at par with ours, it’s a real bargain for them to come down here.”
ON THE CUSP?
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the chamber’s aggressive marketing efforts in Canada are paying off.
“It has long been our goal to market more aggressively, and now more than ever it remains our goal,” he said.
The increase in Canadian retail traffic could possibly lead to even greater things as businesses north of the border, hopefully, will see the North Country as fertile ground for investment, Douglas said.
“We could be on the cusp of some great things.”
County Legislature Finance Committee Chairwoman Sara Rowden (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh) said the added sales-tax revenue is wonderful, but the county needs to continue to be cautious.
“This is really great for our finances, but we still have to be careful when it comes to budgeting, and I think careful is the key word.
“But so far this really has been a big boost,” Rowden said.
Rowden noted that the county still has to deal with rising costs, as well as the state-imposed property-tax-levy cap, which many governments are finding difficult to deal with.
“But the sales-tax revenue can certainly help us meet the new requirements of the cap,” she said.
It is not just Quebec residents that are aiding the county, Rowden said.
“I’ve noticed many Vermont plates here as well, because they don’t have Target, and I’ve seen a lot of Ontario plates. And I suspect we have people from Essex and Franklin Counties shopping here, too.”
HOLIDAY SPENDING TO COME
The legislature will soon begin budget sessions to finalize the 2013 spending plan on Nov. 14.
Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley (R-Area 7, Peru) said sales-tax revenue has been a saving grace for the county.
“It is the only way we are going to meet our expenses, because the finish line on our budget keeps changing for us,” he said.
“We use it (sales tax revenue) to offset property taxes, and I don’t know if people understand that, but we should be grateful for Canadians.”
The county projected that it would take in $32.69 million in sales tax for 2012, and Giroux said there should be no problem reaching and exceeding that figure.
“We still have the holiday season ahead, and that is a big one,” he said.
“It would have to take a real bummer for us not to meet that, and I don’t see that happening.”
Email Joe LoTemplio: firstname.lastname@example.org