Schuyler County bracing for financial impact of COVID-19

Local News

SCHUYLER COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – “From the public health standpoint we’ve done exceptionally well…on the economic front, I think we may not fair as well,”

Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn is preparing for one of the toughest summers in the county’s history. Having already made it through the cancellations of Phish and Woodstock 50, the county is bracing for the possibility of little to no tourists and a lack of sales tax revenue.

Budgeted for $12 million in sales tax revenue this year the county, based on projections, is expecting a decrease of anywhere from 11 to 30 percent, which would be $1.3 million to $3.6 million.

Schuyler County began the year ahead on sales tax revenue, up 17 percent from last year in the first quarter, but their first partial payment for April was down 31 percent compared to last year.

“Our economy has continued to grow and accelerate actually. That’s’ all changed with the shutdown for all of our businesses and we’re very anxious to start returning to what will become our new normal, much of which is still unknown.”

That unknown is expected to affect international tourists who come in droves to see Watkins Glen State Park, Seneca Lake, and Watkins Glen International.

Last year the State Park alone drew over a million visitors. When it comes to the county’s biggest event, NASCAR, O’Hearn says he remains in touch with WGI on the status of the race and whether fans will be able to attend.

“At this point we don’t have definitive word on the status of the race itself or how it would be run, but we will do everything we can to support whatever they need to do. I think even the best-case scenario it’s going to be limited and we will most definitely feel the economic impact of that.”

Until then, Schuyler County is preparing to kickstart local business as part of the Southern Tier region’s reopening plan. O’Hearn says that the county has met all of the Governor’s criteria and that they’re entering their fourth consecutive week without a new case, capping out at nine total.

“We’re there. There’s no question we’ve been there especially in light of the fact that we don’t have any cases, we meet all the criteria… we are doing all that we can, working with our economic development agencies our neighboring counties and our local businesses themselves to facilitate and assist a safe reopening that will at least allow us to recoup some of the losses we are experiencing.”

O’Hearn says the Southern Tier’s plan will be submitted by Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss in the very near future.

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