The 1% sales tax increase that goes into effect in most Westchester County communities on Aug. 1 won’t have an effect on mom and pop businesses in those communities, County Executive George Latimer said during an event at Greenburgh Town Hall on July 8.
More than 40 state, county and local officials gathered with Latimer to praise the equalization of sales taxes at 8.375% throughout the county, except for Yonkers which will remain at 8.875%.
Latimer said that people don’t make shopping decisions based on small differences in sales tax rates.
“When you shop locally in the town you live in you generally shop there because it’s physically convenient to you. When you make the decision to drive a further distance of any sort it’s because you’re looking for diversity of product or you’re looking not just to find one product in one kind of store but a series of things that you might find in a mall or defined shopping area,” Latimer said.
“That mom and pop store that you talk about in that community oftentimes is close to you physically and secondly it represents a storeowner who knows your personal preferences and when you go in they greet you warmly.”
Latimer said the sales tax increase is overshadowed for local business owners by something much bigger: the internet.
“You know the real threat to a mom and pop store, it’s not this thing: it’s internet sales. Internet sales is the real threat to mom and pop stores.” Latimer said that it’s up to the state to determine how sales taxes collected on internet sales are going to be used and “the executive branch will determine whether or not some of that money goes for efforts to promote buying local in ways that are real and tangible, and if that can come out of this process then that would be helpful.”
Latimer announced that, as a result of anticipated additional revenues the county will receive from the sales tax increase, he has directed that county property taxes for the fiscal year 2020 and 2021 budgets be frozen at the 2019 level. He also announced that budget amendments will be introduced to stop the sale of county parking lots which had been planned as budget-balancing measures and that he has signed an executive order to prohibit the county from selling parkland that is over two acres.
The county anticipates collecting nearly $70 million in additional revenues from the sales tax increase. Of that, approximately 20 percent will go to local municipalities and 10 percent will go to school districts.
Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said, “We will be losing a tremendous amount of tax revenue once Indian Point, owned by Entergy, closes their two nuclear plants in 2020 and 2021. The majority of this additional sales tax will go into a fund to offset our loss of revenue.”
Dobbs Ferry Mayor Robert McLoughlin told the group, “We stand to receive over $500,000 of additional revenue that will help us with our efforts to maintain and rebuild our infrastructure including roads, sidewalks, sewers, technology and first-responder equipment.”
North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas pointed out that there is no tax on food and no tax on clothing under $110 an item. He said the town will receive an estimated $275,000 in new sales taxes that will enable them to stop borrowing money to repave the town’s roads.
Greenburgh will be receiving more than $2 million from the sales tax increase and Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said, “Just because we’re getting more revenue doesn’t mean we have to spend the revenue and I think that the challenge for all elected officials is not to overspend but to use the money prudently and wisely.”
“We continue to be below Long Island, New York City, Oneida County, Erie County, Allegany County and a couple of other places that are higher in sales tax rates than we are, but sales tax parity is what we strove for and we knew it was a defensible position to take,” Latimer said.