November 4, 2012

Editorial: Sales tax: our great ally


---- — Some people would say that Canadians shopping in and around Plattsburgh is simply the same old song. But, when their dollar is at par with our own, it’s real music to our ears. And the numbers show it.

Clinton County Treasurer Joseph Giroux reported to county legislators recently that, for September alone, the amount of money the county received in sales tax was $1 million more than expected. For the entire year so far, revenue is up $3.4 million more than the budget called for.

And the most lucrative time of the year hasn’t even arrived yet. The Christmas shopping season awaits, when the wallets and pocketbooks will really be unleashed. In a time of economic uncertainty from coast to coast, one thing the North Country can surely count on is a huge fiscal infusion from north of the nearby border.

It has always been that way. In the worst of times, the North Country has a buffer against national upheavals, and that buffer is Canada.

When the American dollar is valued above the Canadian, local tourists enjoy the benefits of spending time in Canada because their money is worth more when paying hotel and dining bills in Montreal; we have more Canadian money from the exchange. When the value swings the other way, we may not derive much of a deal in Montreal, but Canadians realize a terrific boon in coming down here.

When the dollars are at par, cheaper prices in the United States translate into significant enough savings for Montrealers to attract them down to take a look.

Clinton County Legislature Finance Committee Chairwoman Sara Rowden noted, too, that Vermonters have been seen shopping here in greater numbers, which she attributed to the presence of Target, which they do not have.

If that is the case, it proves the point that a healthy economy is a varied economy — the greater the menu of stores available in an area, the greater the lure the community becomes to outside dollars.

Stores closing and not being replaced spells trouble in the long run. That’s why it is such big news when we hear that a known chain is considering establishing a new outlet in our area.

Remember the importance of the sales-tax dollar: Every penny brought in that way is one that will not fall to the property owner to provide via the property tax. Whenever visitors are paying our taxes for us, via either the sales tax or the hotel and motel occupancy — or “bed” — tax, it relieves property owners from the sole burden of paying for government.

Sales tax is the great salvation for our three northern counties — and Canadians are the great deliverers of that salvation.