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Buck paints bleak financial picture for county amid coronavirus pandemic

Isabel Braverman - Staff Writer
Posted 5/14/20

MONTICELLO — As the coronavirus pandemic continues many places in the country are still on lockdown with economies shut.

It's no surprise that experts are predicting a hit to the economy during …

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Buck paints bleak financial picture for county amid coronavirus pandemic

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MONTICELLO — As the coronavirus pandemic continues many places in the country are still on lockdown with economies shut.

It's no surprise that experts are predicting a hit to the economy during this time, and on Monday Sullivan County Treasurer Nancy Buck painted a bleak future for the state of finances in the county.

“When the federal government talks the word trillion, the state talks the word billion, local counties talking the word millions—and millions, and millions—and businesses are talking in the thousands,” Buck said. “It doesn't matter how many zeroes are at the end, we're all hurting.”

She said that the federal government will have to step in to help to provide necessary funding for state and local governments. Without that, the loss of revenue could be detrimental.

The county got its first sales tax report for the period of March and the beginning of April. Buck said it was 30 percent down from where it was last year, representing over $800,000.

With seven more months in the year, Buck said if it continues to go down 30 percent each month that would be a loss of $7 million.

New York State Association of Counties is predicting a 20 percent decrease in state aid, which amounts to $4.7 million. A higher figure predicts it will be 50 percent, which is $11.7 million.

“These are devastation [levels],” Buck stated. “I don't know where we're going to come out of this.”

In addition to sales tax and state aid, the county will likely see losses in other revenue streams from the Resorts World Catskills Casino, room tax, mortgage tax and other small taxes that different departments collect.

Further, Buck said her office just received the towns' three month property tax bills. There are $23 million of unpaid taxes, due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Treasurer's Office will be collecting that for the next two years.

“The phones ring off the hook because people can't pay their taxes,” Buck said.

The economic crisis is also affecting the county's Standard & Poor's bond rating. It is currently an AA (which is strong), but Buck said she's not sure it will stay that way, and a poor bond rating can affect future borrowing.

Buck reiterated that they need help from the federal government. The CARES Act provided funding in the first round only to governments that serve more than 500,000 people (the population of Sullivan County is 75,498).

Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY-19) said he has introduced a bill that would make sure all local governments, no matter their size, get access to funds.

He said he understands the concern that Buck and other small, rural communities are expressing.

“The number one priority for me in this next round of aid is going to be state and local [funding], and an emphasis on local and supporting our counties,” Delgado said. “It is imperative that we make sure there is direct support that goes to Sullivan County and all of our counties.”

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