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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

You may not actually see who is leaving books and magazines for the commuters at the Locust Valley Train Station, but those who have nicknamed these delightful and dedicated women the “Book Ladies.”

Sue Klein and Joan McCauley, who are Friends of the Library, have been collecting donated books from the community and displaying them at the Long Island Railroad waiting area every week. The Book Ladies have also displayed Locust Valley Library programs so that commuters are aware of all the wonderful events that are going on.  

There will be a different look to the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education come September. Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Christopher Van Cott is leaving his position to take a similar role in the Oceanside School District. He is following in the footsteps of past OBEN School Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington, who also left to take a similar position in Oceanside last year. The district will begin their search for a replacement for Van Cott this summer.


Sports

The Varsity Baseball Team finished the season with a league record of 11-3-1. In the playoffs, the team swept Carle Place in a best of three set to advance to the county finals vs. Wheatley at Hofstra University. The team finished the season as County runner-ups. The team was a nice combination of veteran varsity leaders and new comers to the varsity with six senior players and four freshmen on the squad. Along with four juniors, the team maintained the winning ways of a program that has won the league championship 7 out of the last eight years and won the county championship 6 of those years. Senior Berkeley Golon, Junior Jackson O’Neill, and Junior Stephen Spiegel received All-County honors. Senior Robbie Venegas and Freshman Harrison Treble received All-League honors. With two All-County pitchers coming back and four freshmen going into their second varsity season mixed with the other juniors and new players coming up from another successful JV season, the team expects to continue to work towards the goal of another county title next season.

The 2014 Oyster Bay High School Lady Baymen varsity spring track team recently completed a most memorable and record breaking season. Two school records were shattered this season; one relay record and one individual. Oyster Bay’s 4x800 meter relay team comprised of seniors Nicole Giannetti, Cassandra Iacono and juniors Linda Cameron and Rachel Wesley, broke the existing school record, and later broke their own record with a time of 10:01.56 at the Section VIII State Qualifier Meet on May 29.

Nicole Giannetti‘s senior year as a member of the Oyster Bay Girls’ Varsity Track team will also be one that will be long remembered. In addition to helping break the school’s 4x800 meters relay record, Giannetti broke the school’s 2000 meter steeplechase record, with a time of 7:23.79. Winning the 1500 meter run in very dramatic fashion at the Nassau Coaches Invitational, with an amazing time of 4:59 was a memorable mid-season highlight. Giannetti earned All-Conference honors in both the 1500 meters and 3000 meter runs and All County honors in the 2000 meter steeplechase. Giannetti qualified for the New York State Track and Field Championship in the 2000 meter steeplechase, finishing fifth and thus earning All-State honors. Giannetti was recruited by Haverford College to run for them when she attends this fall where she will study bio-chemistry.

Calendar

Mammography Van

Thursday, July 17

History Walk

Saturday, July 19

Dessert in a Jar

Monday, July 21



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