2013 sales tax take rose by 6 percent in Nassau, Suffolk

People wait patiently as service employees complete their People wait patiently as service employees complete their orders at the service desks as shoppers crowd the Macy's store in the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City on Nov. 28, 2013. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Sales tax revenue in 2013 rose by more than 6 percent each in Nassau and Suffolk counties although Suffolk missed its budgeted projection by $7.7 million, county officials said.

Slower than expected retail spending during the holiday shopping season helped hold down sales tax growth in both counties, officials said.

Final year-end sales tax figures show that revenue in Nassau grew by 6.3 percent to $1.13 billion -- up from $1.07 billion in 2012, county Comptroller George Maragos said. Nassau budgeted $1.12 billion for sales taxes last year.

However, fourth-quarter sales tax revenue dropped by 12.4 percent compared with the same period in 2012, in part because consumers continued to shift spending from brick and mortar stores to online sites, some of which originate overseas and are difficult to track or collect sales taxes from, Maragos said.

That trend -- combined with diminished spending on home improvement and automobiles compared with 2013, when those categories benefitted from spending for superstorm Sandy recovery -- should temper expectations for 2014, Maragos said.

Nassau's 2014 budget projects 2 percent growth this calendar year.

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"The reality for this year and beyond may be smaller gains in sales tax revenues due to nonexistent consumer income growth and shifts in buying habits," Maragos said.

Suffolk collected $1.28 billion in sales tax revenues in 2013, a 6.75 percent increase from 2012, according to County Executive Steve Bellone and the county legislature's budget review office.

But that was $7.7 million short of estimates in the 2014 budget of what the county would collect in 2013, legislative budget analysts said.

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Robert Lipp, director of the office of budget review, attributed Suffolk's shortfall to less robust holiday sales and waning spending on recovery efforts from Sandy.

"It was a timing issue," he said of Sandy spending. "The good news is that we still expect that revenue to come in sometime this year."

Suffolk in its 2014 budget forecast 3 percent growth in sales tax revenues this year. But county sales tax revenues will have to grow by 3.6 percent to meet the budget projections from a smaller 2013 base.

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