NEWARK — On the eve of what may well be a move to rescind sales-tax sharing in Wayne County, school officials met Thursday at Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES headquarters to demand that the county supervisors deliberate and make their decision in the open — and do that based on negotiations with school boards and superintendents.
The County Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee met Tuesday with the sales tax issue on the agenda as a discussion item. But before that discussion occurred, Committee Chair Bill Hammond, the Macedon town supervisor, convened an executive session to discuss “litigation.” An hour and 40 minutes later, the committee reconvened and abruptly adjourned to Friday morning at 9 a.m.
If the Finance Committee approves a resolution to rescind sales-tax sharing with schools Friday morning, it would go to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote. The supervisors next meet on Tuesday.
Hammond later said, “Some board members need to have some more time to get their questions answered. They want to get more information about sales tax distribution from our staff members.”
Then, Thursday evening, Hammond announced he intends to recommend Friday that the supervisors make no attempt to change the sales tax distribution formula at this time.
"On December 10, Governor Cuomo announced that he was accepting the final report of the New York State Tax Relief Commission. Given this report and its potential implications for the taxpayers of Wayne County, it is important that we wait," Hammond stated in a prepared release issued jointly by the Town of Macedon and the Palmyra-Macedon school district. "We need to examine the contents of the report and weigh the potential outcomes for taxpayer relief. We don’t have the information we need to even have this discussion yet. There are too many unknowns."
Such discussion should occur in public, superintendents suggested at Thursday's gathering of school officials.
In his opening remarks in Thursday’s press conference, Red Creek school district Superintendent Dave Sholes said, “Over the past few months and in recent years, we have listened, presented and informed our supervisors of the ramifications of taking away sales-tax revenue from the schools. During this time period, we have heard very little, if any, open debate on a very important $5.4 million county issue that could adversely affect the future of students, residents and businesses.
“We fear the loss of $5.4 million, but also fear a decision of this magnitude will be made — or may have been made — behind closed doors.”
Williamson district Superintendent Michael Collins said any reduction in the revenue “will have an impact on the actual way of life in Wayne County.” He said the county had “vague ideas of where this money is going to go” if it is not parceled to the school districts, and called the process “smoke and mirrors.”
Collins urged individual supervisors to meet with school boards. “They have not had that discussion,” he said.
Jason Smith, owner of Westbury Lumber in Red Creek, also spoke as part of the five-person panel in the press conference. He said he feels the decrease in sales-tax revenue will bump up property taxes.
“The county says it’s going to spend the money and lower my taxes; I don’t believe it,” said Smith. “They’re forcing the schools to be the bad guy.”