LYONS — Representatives of Wayne County schools Wednesday argued that the county’s 11 school districts should continue to share in sales tax revenues.
“Sales tax sharing has been going on for 45 years, and it has helped schools in this country greatly,” Red Creek district Superintendent Dave Sholes told the Wayne County Board of Supervisors Wednesday afternoon. “Because of that history, we will never give up trying to preserve the sharing of sales tax, and we believe the people in this county will support this ideology.”
Sholes was arguing on behalf of the 11 school districts in the county that say they would be adversely affected if the county decides to keep the $5.4 million in sales tax revenues it has paid to schools for years to defray property taxes. Sholes, Marion school board member Keith Hendricks and Laurie Verbridge of the Wayne County Educational Coalition addressed the supervisors, who met as a committee of the whole.
Retiring Ontario Supervisor Bob Kelsch — who had raised the issue of sales tax revenue pullback — also spoke, reviewing his numbers and potential savings to the county and its towns and villages. When Kelsch made his presentation to the supervisors’ Finance Committee on Nov. 7, he said he was just starting a discussion.
At the end of Wednesday’s session, Macedon Supervisor Bill Hammond, the Finance Committee chair, affirmed that nothing has been brought forward for his committee to consider. His committee meets next Tuesday morning.
“I have no resolution,” Hammond said. “Nothing.”
But school district officials are tense about what might still happen.
Sholes argued that school districts could lose from a low of $154,000 (Red Creek) to a high of $800,000 (Newark) if the county stops sharing sales tax revenue. That leaves schools to either raise property taxes to fill in the gap or reduce costs, which could mean layoffs and program cuts.
Hendricks detailed the program cuts that could follow, including sports, band and music, college-level courses, career electives and competitions. He noted the “sense of community pride that revolves around sports and music programs” in the schools, reminding Marion Supervisor Jolene Bender that he and her son were teammates on a state championship soccer team.
“Some things I just don’t get in education,” Kelsch said. “Something seems to have gone wrong someplace.” He said his wife went to school for six years in a one-room schoolhouse, with a pot-bellied stove and outhouse. She became a nurse.
“I’m a graduate of the ’50s,” he said. “We put a man on the moon with a slide rule. We didn’t have all the ‘stuff’ that’s in education today. I don’t know what all that stuff gets you.”
Sholes said many of the changes in schools are mandated by the state and federal government, including the new computerized testing program.
Verbridge added that the disabled children of years ago now have many more programs available to help them be productive members of society. She also asked the supervisors to look at any decision using fact-based management: “Don’t just do this on a whim.”
Wolcott Supervisor Kim Park responded: “For eight years this board has decreased taxes. There has never been anything done on a whim. We’ve cut 10 percent of our workforce, not on a whim, but based on facts.”
Rose Town Supervisor Kenan Baldridge noted the financial constraints on both sides, and said keeping the sales-tax revenue “might be helpful to the county in the short term, but I’m not sure it’s good for communities long-term because it will result in layoffs. It’s not going to be helpful anywhere to take this money back. We should leave it alone.”