Sales Tax Collections Skyrockets in Rockland, NY, Likely Due to Population Growth

Data collected by OJPAC shows that Rockland County saw an explosion in sales tax revenue over the last 10 years despite trouble at many malls and big box stores. In 1998, the county collected $89 million in sales tax which rose to $168 million in 2008 and then jumped to $208,573,514 in 2018; a jump of forty million dollars and 23.7% in a mere ten years. The latter numbers are notable considering that many large retailers and shopping malls across the county are struggling in recent years.

Rockland, 30 miles North of New York City, has a population of 330,000 spread across five towns. This includes a population of more than 65,000 Orthodox Jews in the Town of Ramapo. OJPAC was unable to obtain sales tax collections by town or how many people from Ramapo shopped in Clarkstown which has many large malls in it. However, the county's population rose only 7.5% from 2000 through 2017 according to the Census, while Ramapo's population rose 26.2% in the same period. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the population growth of Ramapo contributed in large part to the county's massive sales tax haul. 

This is relevant because one of the points often mentioned by  people in suburban New York and New Jersey is the cost of Medicaid. The Public School system has an annual cost in New York of $22,000 per child but Most Hasidim do not use it. Medicaid however - with an annual cost per child of $3,000 among all levels of government - is used by eligible Hasidim. Concerned citizens - who don't seem to care about the $22,000 a year public school cost which is about 50% of property tax bills - care about Medicaid cost which is the equivalent of 1.5% of property tax bills. The claim is that the growth of the Orthodox Jewish Community means more Medicaid cost.

This claim is accurate, but the growth of the Orthodox Jewish Community also means more sales tax revenue and more property tax revenue. Indeed, the Town of Monroe in neighboring Orange County saw a jump of $47.1 million in taxable assessed property values in the ten years ending with 2018. In the same period, Hasidic-populated Kiryas Joel which was in the town through 2018, saw a jump of $48.2 in assessed property value. Essentially, Kiryas Joel's population growth and its needed housing development created the town's full rise in taxable assessed property value!

The context of Rockland's $40 million jump in sales tax collections is that the county has about 70,000 people who use Medicaid and the county's Medicaid budget is approximately $70 million. This would average $1,000 in county Medicaid cost per person. Simply put, the $40 million rise in sales tax collections over the last ten years is the equivalent of covering Medicaid for 40,000 people. Put differently, local cost for one child in the Public School (more than $5,000 each) is about five times more than the local cost of Medicaid per child, and most children in Public School have Medicaid too.

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