Treasurer: Otsego County saw 27% dip in March sales tax

Ruffles

Sales tax revenue in Otsego County in March 2020 was down 27% from a year earlier, according to Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles.

The county received the March money last week and the figures include nearly two weeks under Gov Andrew Cuomo’s “New York on Pause” executive orders. The orders continued through April and are set to begin expiring Friday, May 15, on a regional basis.

Ruffles said the projections were close to what the New York State Association of Counties had labeled “severe” in scales it made for the county.

Earlier in the week, NSYAC advised the county it could lose more than $20 million in revenue from its 2020 budget, including $10 million in lost sales tax revenue from a year without tourism and $10 in lost state aid. Otsego County gets 55% of its revenue from sales tax and state aid, forcing the county to prepare for a grim week of committee meetings where county officials will be considering layoffs for the county’s 400-plus member workforce.

At the board’s meeting Wednesday, May 6, Personnel Director Penny Gentile said she had an initial list of about 20 layoffs, plus 11 candidates for retirement. As many as 100 people may have to be cut.

Gentile and several board members said it would be cruel to emulate neighbor Schoharie County and call the layoffs furloughs. Doing so would give people false hope, they said.

“I don’t know that we’re going into this thinking it is temporary, unfortunately,” Gentile said.

Otsego County has a strong fund balance and good cash flow, Ruffles said, and the board authorized a bill last Wednesday that allows him to seek an $8 million Revenue Anticipation Loan for emergencies.

Otsego County Board Chair Dave Bliss said Schoharie used several formulas to do layoffs, which might help Otsego County: employees that are already home not working; positions with salaries less than $50,000, so the workers get the full unemployment allowances; seasonal workers that might be recalled for emergencies. Schoharie was heavy on road crew, which might not be the same formula in Otsego, he said.

Ruffles told the board the delayed state budget bill was rumored to be cutting mental health and social services, which might lead to direct positions to cut, based on being unfunded.

The process could be completed at a special Board of Representatives meeting Wednesday, May 20.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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