For a second week, Wayne County School Superintendents and supporters were out in force to persuade the County Board of Supervisors not to squash the sharing of Sales Tax with School Districts. After a week of rallies and speeches at the public meetings, the intensity continued and grew into this past week.
The Board of Supervisors were set to discuss the sales tax sharing issue at their Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 10. School Districts reps were on hand in force again to hear the discussion. With a long list of resolutions to cover at the meeting, and then an hour-long executive session on a possible litigation issue, the board returned to open session and adjourned the meeting until Friday, December 13th.
In the meanwhile, with tempers flaring due to what the Superintendents’ perceived as a snub, a hastily called press conference was held on Thursday at the Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES campus in Newark.
The panel at the press conference included David Sholes, Superintendent at Red Creek Central Schools, Michael Collins, president of Williamson Central Board of Education, business ownwer, Jason Smith, Labor Union rep and Wayne County resident Jon Hickey, and Scott Bischoping, District Superintendent of WFL-BOCES.
“As I stand before you today,” said Sholes, “…the current Board of Supervisors in proposing to take away the entire $5.4 million from schools, breaking a promise that has been in place for almost 50 years.” He noted that, if the board acts to stop the sharing, then property taxes will increase 4.5% to 16% throughout the County, and school districts will have to extensively cut non-mandated programs, essential to the future of students.
The panel agreed that the school side of the issue had been addressed with facts and explanations. “We find no debate confusing. Why do they not lay out their plan for the tax money they would take back?” Discussion should be made in open session,” stated Sholes. “This is not a take back, but a take away for our schools.”
The County’s Finance Committee reconvened on Friday, December 13th at 9:00 a.m. Present were Supervisors Hammond, Bender, Park, Plant, Groat, Miller, LeRoy, Crane, Kelsch, Manktelow, Colacino and Hoffman, County Administrator James Marquette, Fiscal Assistant Ken Blake and Assistant County Attorney Erin Hammond. Supervisors-elect John Smith and Patti Marini, along with several school district superintendents and school board members were also in attendance.
Mr. Hammond stated this meeting was a continuation of the Committee’s meeting earlier in the week regarding the distribution of sales tax to school districts.
He recommended the Finance Committee not do anything at this time with the sales tax distribution appropriation to school districts. He made this recommendation based on new information that came out of the New York State Tax Relief Commission
Report that recommended a two year property tax freeze; saying if a school district can keep their tax increase to under the States property tax cap, the increase would be covered by the State in the form of a refund check to residents. Mr. Hammond said the Board of Supervisors needs to better understand the circumstances of this proposal as they want to do what is best for taxpayers. He questioned the local affect of the Commission’s recommendations being enacted.
Mr. Groat questioned if a joint committee of Board Supervisors and School Superintendents should be formed to work on issues of possible collaboration.
Palmyra-Macedon Central School District Superintendent, Robert Ike, said he has discussed this possibility with Supervisor Hammond. Mr. Hammond said he does not believe the Board of Supervisors understands what school boards do, no more than school boards understand what the Board of Supervisors does. He noted the activities of both groups are separate at this time, and recommended it not remain that way. Mr. Hammond stated the need for both groups to address property taxes, stating until this issue is addressed business and residential growth will not occur in Wayne County. He noted the ease in justifying a budget when you want to help children, however when you are in a position to force individuals from their home because they can’t afford to pay their taxes, the value of budget expenditures changes.