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Nassau County Comptroller’s Report: March 20, 2014

County’s Economic Good News And Bad News

Sales tax revenue is the County’s biggest source of income, accounting for over 40 percent of total annual revenues. Sales tax is also a good barometer of the County’s economic activity and economic health. Therefore, it is gratifying that the final sales tax figures for 2013 show an increase of 6.3 percent to $1.13 billion over the prior year. This was on top of another healthy increase of 4.2 percent in 2012.

These sales tax growth figures would seem to imply that Nassau County has recovered well from the recession and Superstorm Sandy, and in fact it has, with unemployment now under five percent, well below the national and state averages.

Yet, some worrisome signs appeared towards the end of 2013. The sales tax revenue during the holiday shopping season declined an astounding 12.4 percent when compared to the same period in 2012. This local tapering off at year end is especially concerning because nationwide retail sales were up 0.2 percent and the national economy grew by 2.4 percent.

The question that arose was whether our local economy was slowing more than the national average or were there other factors at play? One factor accounting for the significant drop in sales tax receipts towards year-end may have been a shift in consumer shopping habits from brick-and-mortar stores to online, which reduced the amount of sales tax revenue. The latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics project online sales to have increased 12.5 percent for 2013 through the third quarter, tripling since 2004. Another factor for the drop-off in holiday sales tax receipts may also be due in part to flat income growth for consumers; income grew only .25 percent in November and not at all in December.  

At first glance, the combination of flat income growth and the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online appeared especially troubling to Nassau County as well as other municipalities which rely heavily on sales tax revenues and local consumer spending to generate jobs. However, a recent federal court decision requiring online vendors such as Amazon to collect and submit sales tax now appears to have provided a huge boost to sales tax revenues, up about 9.7 percent in the January-February period. These were sales that were not taxed previous to 2014. This trend is now anticipated to provide higher sales tax revenues in 2014 than the two-percent growth projected in the County’s 2014 budget.

The bad news is that the accelerating shift to online sales will mean potentially lower sales going forward for brick-and-mortar stores and fewer local jobs at retail stores. Additionally, the absence of income growth will further dampen sales and jobs, not only in retail, but all the sectors of our economy. Our local economy may have to adjust to the new realities, and policymakers should continue to strive to create good-paying jobs in other sectors, especially in the growing technology, bio-sciences and health care industries.

News

Oyster Bay is becoming a known name on the Long Island bar scene thanks to the recent success of its very own craft beer created by The Oyster Bay Brewing Company. Established in 2012 by Gabe Haim and Ryan Schlotter, two friends who quickly jumped at the opportunity to home brew and create their own beer, these Long Islanders are excited to be doing what they love while representing Oyster Bay.

“There is a lot of opportunity in Oyster Bay, being a hamlet on the water and on the North Shore, we thought it would be a perfect fit,” said Haim. “Oyster Bay is going through a resurgence and we wanted to be a draw in the town. “

On Saturday, July 5, Building J on the Western Waterfront was opened to the public for a free concert of classical music played by talented youth in the Oyster Bay Music Festival. The acoustics in the large metal shed were lively as the backdrop of the Ida May, a wooden oyster dredge under construction, lent artisanal flavor to the rich stew of mostly sea-related musical selections. People sat on stacks and benches of freshly milled wood or stood in the cavernous space. They soaked in beautiful solos, duets and trios that combined voice, piano, flute, cello and violin. Frank M Flower & Sons provided fresh oysters that engaged the palate, and representatives from Steinway & Sons gave a quick overview of how their pianos are made, relating several aspects of their meticulous process to the construction of the Ida May.


Sports

Oakcliff’s intensive training program provided a high level of competition last weekend at the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship in Oyster Bay.

This year, the teams selected for the event were highly ranked through the United States, and several of the competitors are past and current Oakcliff trainees, including Elizabeth Shaw, Kathryn Shiber, Madeline Gill, and Danielle Gallo.

A total of 11 members of St. Dominic Track Team (grades 1-8) recently medaled at the Nassau-Suffolk CYO Championship Finals at Mitchel Field. In the finals, the athletes competed against the finalists from all three regions, representing more than 2,500 athletes from 23 other parishes.

In addition to the student athletes’ success, the track coaches were honored as well. St. Dominic CYO Track coaches Phil Schade (grades 1-3), Julie and Mike Keffer (grades 4-6) and Rich Cameron (grades 7-8) were selected by peer coaches in their region for the NSCYO Team Sportsmanship Award. The Saint Dominic CYO track program, in its second year, has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with and the young runners are among the best on Long Island.


Calendar

July Band Concerts

Wednesday, July 30

Babysitting and First Aid Workshop

Thursday, July 31

Opera Night

Saturday, Aug. 2



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com