Why Erie County doesn't offer temporary sales tax breaks for back to school shopping

Posted at 5:11 PM, Aug 14, 2017

It's never too early to start back to school shopping if you have five kids like Brandy Rivera. “It's very hectic but it's also very fun,” she said.

And expensive. Rivera said all of the new clothes and school supplies can add up. “School supplies are very expensive. There's a lot of them and I think that's where the cost comes in.” “Me and my daughter have been buying a little each week so it doesn't hit all at one time,” added Judy Todaro.

To help families like Todaro’s, in 2015, New York did away with its four percent sales tax on clothing and footwear purchases under $110. New York City and eight counties statewide followed suit. But only one of those counties: Chautauqua County is in Western New York.

According to Erie County Comptroller, Stefan Mychajliw, a temporary exemption in Erie County would require approval from the county legislature, the county executive, and the state. It's also something the county has never done before. Why? Mychajliw said the county relies heavily on sales tax to balance the budget.

Sales tax revenue makes up some $750 million of the Erie Co. budget, and about half, or $340 million goes to cities, towns, villages, school districts, and the NFTA. So, Mychajliw said eliminating sales tax even for short while would have a devastating effect in those areas.

Seven Eyewitness News Reporter Ali Touhey: Why doesn't Erie Co. participate in the program?
Mychajliw: It would be a major loss of revenue not just for the county but for Erie County municipalities, school districts and the NFTA. There would be a massive ripple effect for those entities.

A spokesman for County Executive Mark Poloncarz said a temporary sales tax holiday isn’t being considered at this time. Mychajliw said he supports a pilot program to better understand the impacts.
Shoppers like Brandy Rivera said she'll take her money to Chautauqua County if it means saving more in the long run. “Just to save a little extra money. Yea, I would,” she said.