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Nassau 2009 sales tax collection fell 5.2 percent

Nassau's sales tax collections for 2009 were down 5.2 percent, even including revenue from an unpopular home heating tax, County Comptroller George Maragos reported this week.

Without the energy tax, the revenue would have dropped 7.3 percent from 2008 - roughly $85 million less than originally budgeted last year.

Although officials projected a decline because of the weak economy, it puts even more pressure on County Executive Edward Mangano as he seeks to balance the budget.

Mangano and the county legislature created a gaping budget hole when they repealed the 2.5 percent sales tax on home heating fuels on Jan. 1. He promised to produce a plan within 60 days to fill the gap, estimated at $36 million. That leaves him two more weeks.

"The sales tax numbers are a concern we're addressing as we put together our plan," said Mangano spokesman Michael Martino. He said deputy county executive for finance Tim Sullivan "expects the plan will be presented on schedule."

Maragos already is projecting lower sales taxes than budgeted for this year. Although the 2010 budget calls for a 1.75 percent increase, Maragos says his preliminarily estimate is that collections will be flat or rise just 1 percent. That could create an additional sales tax deficit of $10 million to $15 million.

Sales tax revenue pays for about 38 percent of county operations.

After receiving the final sales tax checks for 2009 last week, Maragos said the county collected a total $951.3 million, which includes $21.9 million from the heating tax. In comparison, it received about $1 billion in sales tax in 2008 and about $1.01 billion in 2007.

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