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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 High School Principal Dr. Dennis O’Hara addressed the board of education at Tuesday night’s meeting about offering a summer school program at the high school. It would be the first time the district had a summer school program in more than 12 years.

Dr. O’Hara explained that with the institution of the Common Core state standards, students are faced with a greater level of academic rigor and more challenging coursework. The program would offer remedial and enrichment classes for students both in and out of district.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, Long Islanders taking mass transit may find themselves caught up in the mad dash of the holiday rush. But on the Oyster Bay line, riders are lucky in that they don’t experience the same level of stress over parking as some of the busier lines do.

“The Oyster Bay station never seems to get that crowded, but we’ll see what happens during Thanksgiving holiday when a lot of people come to visit families. I don’t think I’ll have a problem commuting, though,” says Michael Miniero, an Oyster Bay resident who regularly commutes to work on the LIRR.


Sports

In the history of Oyster Bay High School athletics, no one has ever won a Girls’ Tennis New York State Championship. Celeste Matute and Courtney Kowalsky became the first when they won the 2014 New York State Doubles Championship in Latham on Nov. 3. What makes this tremendous achievement even more remarkable is that Matute is a junior and Kowalsky is a sophomore.

The girls, who are usually singles players, teamed up to take on the very best players in Nassau County and New York State. They won all 10 matches in the section XIII and NYSPHSAA tournaments and left Latham as the 2014 New York State doubles champions.

The conditions were as fierce as the competition earlier this month at Oakcliff Sailing’s Halloween Invitational.

Ten teams from the U.S., Canada and Bermuda battled 30-knot-plus winds, heavy rain and biting cold to see who would take top honors at Oakcliff’s final match racing event of the 2014 season.


Calendar

Raingarden Workshop

Wednesday, November 19 & Thursday, November 20

Informative Hospital Talk

November November 20

Opera Night

Sunday, November 23



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