Press-Republican

March 10, 2014

Clinton County sales-tax revenue lagging a bit behind

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Sales-tax revenue figures for Clinton County so far this year are behind projections, but officials are not concerned.

“It’s too early to get excited,” said Legislator Mark Dame, who chairs the Finance Committee.

“Let’s wait until spring and early summer when more Canadians make their visits here.”

Sales-tax figures through the end of February show the county is $204,504 behind its projection of $3,674,250 for the first two months.

While the February total is lagging, it has improved from the end of January, when totals were $308,818 behind.

ADJUSTMENTS

Treasurer Kimberly Davis said the state makes adjustments for the end of each quarter, which added to the January deficit.

Davis explained that national chain stores are allowed to give estimates of sales-tax revenue at the end of each quarter and the adjustments are made when the actual figures are totaled a short time later.

PROJECTIONS

The county has done very well in sales-tax revenue over the past decade, exceeding projections comfortably in most years.

Last year, the county projected revenue of $34,165,001 and actually took in $37,753,371.

The county projected revenues of $35,640,000 for 2014.

Even if the county doesn’t match last year’s totals, Davis is confident they will be above projections.

“So we are not overly concerned, at this point,” she said.

Davis said poor weather in January and February may have curtailed visits to the area by some Canadians and other visitors.

“I’m comfortable with where we are right now,” she said.

VALUE VISITORS

Dame said Canadian customers are vital to the region and should be treated as such. He said some national store chains should offer better exchange rates on Canadian currency.

“We need to educate these stores and let them know our proximity to Canada and that the Canadian traffic is so important to us,” he said.

“Some places won’t even take Canadian pennies, and that is insulting to our neighbors to the north.”

‘MADDENING’

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the chamber is always trying to educate business on the importance of Canadian commerce.

“Unlike years ago, when our neighbors generally used Canadian cash, more and more today use credit cards, especially those that don’t have junk charges for exchange. Or they exchange their money before they visit or at a currency exchange, especially to cover smaller purchases,” Douglas told the Press-Republican.

“Many of the national retailers remain maddening, however, in that they recognize the importance of the Canadian customers when they decide to locate here but then forget about it in terms of servicing those customers.

“We’re always encouraging customer services tailored to this huge part of our customer base, including such things as bilingual signs and menus, for example, and, when possible, bilingual customer service.

“We continue to work with Clinton Community College to offer classes for front-line staff in some basic French.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com