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LI first-half sales tax revenue up, data show

Sales tax revenue for the first half of the year grew by 11.2 percent in Nassau County and 6.5 percent in Suffolk compared with last year, according to new figures.

County budget officials attributed the increased revenue to superstorm Sandy-related spending, job growth and increased consumer confidence.

The spending spurt has generated $529.5 million for Nassau since January, $53.4 million more than the same period last year, according to figures provided by Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. Suffolk has pulled in $621.4 million in sales tax revenue in the past six months, $36 million more than last year, according to state tax department figures.

"This is indeed good news for county taxpayers as it underscores the strength of the economic recovery since superstorm Sandy," Maragos said.

Fred Pollert, Suffolk deputy county executive for finances, said the county had its best half-year sales tax receipts since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008.

Pollert said, "Improved unemployment numbers along with increased consumer confidence and the money being spent on the Sandy recovery are the primary drivers" of the higher sales tax revenue.

He noted that Nassau's increase may be higher because Nassau experienced more damage from Sandy than Suffolk. Pollert said the recovery efforts could continue to spur the local economy for the next 12 to 18 months, given the experience of local governments in Florida after past storms.

Suffolk Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the sales tax numbers show "that people are making the decision to rebuild here rather than fold their tent and walk away."

Maragos also said Nassau's outside auditors confirmed results he announced last month that the county ended 2012 with a cash surplus of $41.5 million.

However, under accounting methods used by the county's financial control board, which compared recurring revenue to expenses, the county ended last year with an $85 million deficit.

To date, Suffolk has not bonded for any Sandy-related capital projects, Schneider said.

With Celeste Hadrick and Paul LaRocco

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