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Erie County distributed just 0.6 percent more sales tax this year than in 2003, according to County Comptroller Nancy A. Naples.

This is the second smallest increase in sales tax during the last six years. Only 2001 was a worse year for sales tax collection, partly because of the terrorist attacks that year.

"Our economy here is not doing well," Naples said. "Hopefully we'll see a stronger economy in 2005 and increased sales tax revenues."

Erie County and the state distributed $479 million to the county and its cities, towns, villages and school districts this year. The county won't know until February, Naples said, whether it collected as much sales tax revenue as it had included in the budget. There's usually a two-month delay between when a business submits sales tax to the state and when the money is distributed by the county.

"The receipts we receive are on a cash basis," Naples said. "The budget is on an accrual basis."

These are two different accounting methods that record income and expenses at different times.

Beginning March 1, Erie County residents could see their total sales tax on goods rise to 9.25 percent. However, the increase is being contested in court and still needs the approval of the state legislature.