Taxpayers need to take an interest in budget facts

To the Editor:

The Berne Town Supervisor, Mr. Sean Lyons, has issued a letter, posted to the town website, which seeks to reassure residents concerning the impact of the pandemic on town finances. Information is a good thing, since there has been little communication up to now about what budget amendments might need to be made to make up for the actual and projected shortfall in sales and use tax revenues.

However, the letter states,

“Towns and cities that have a heavy dependence on local sales tax, hotel occupancy taxes and other revenues tied to local spending and tourism will be hit the hardest. Our town does not rely heavily on this income and the impact of reduced sales tax revenue constitutes a much smaller percentage of the towns [sic] financial base…”. 

A quick glance at the New York State Comptroller’s Office website shows that sales and use taxes, which are collected in the county and remitted to the towns, have, in recent years, made up from 34 percent (2017) to 46.1 percent (2019) of actual revenues for Berne in recent years.

Furthermore, the 2020 budget posted for Berne estimates that “non-property tax distributed by the county” (i.e. sales and use tax) for 2020 will be $532,000 for the General Fund and the same amount for the Highway Fund. That is 56.7 percent of the total revenues estimated for the town, over both funds.   That is hardly a “small” percentage of the budgeted revenue.

The comptroller’s office has indicated that sales tax revenues were 32.9-percent lower for the Capital District in May 2020 than in May 2019, and about 10-percent lower for the period from January to May 2020 compared to 2019.  Of course, we don’t know what those reductions will be, over the course of the entire year.

My desire is that taxpayers will take an interest in the facts.  

Kathleen E. Moore


Editor’s note: Kathleen E. Moore chairs the Berne Conservation Board.

“Berne does rely on sales tax,” Supervisor Sean Lyons told The Enterprise in an email. “I am not disputing that, it was to highlight how the bigger municipalities draw heavily from hotel and tourism. And yes in the Hilltowns we all have a very similar profile but my point was Berne has more businesses contributing to local sales tax revenue then our neighboring towns.”

See related story: Berne super says COVID tax losses won’t affect town staff or services

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