Schools, mayors react to latest county sales tax proposal

"We understand the position the county is in, but they couldn't pick a worse time to take away funds," said Baldwinsville Central School District's Assistant Superintendent of Management Services James Rodem, adding that with the loss of federal and state funding, it's the "perfect storm for school finances."

"It isn't fair for the county to keep all the sales tax as county districts share the same tax base as the county," Rodem continued. "Our taxpayers are contributing to sales tax money also."

If the Onondaga County Legislature and the Syracuse Common Council were to pass the proposed 75-25 split, school districts would be forced to make significant cuts or raise taxes.

"We've done the numbers, we know exactly what the sales tax money means on the tax levy -- roughly 3 percent for every school district," Cummings said. "It's not at all insignificant. In this climate, to make another 3 percent on cuts or raising taxes, it's not attractive."

Additionally, the task force argues that in 2011, Onondaga County's schools are targeted for state aid cuts 26 percent larger than the state average cut -- in the end, it would make county schools significantly less competitive than schools in other parts of the state.

The proposal states that, "Given that good schools are a key determinant to where people choose to live, we ask, "How can this possibly be good for Onondaga County?"

Rodem said the districts are still part of the ongoing discussion and are keeping things professional -- in other words, "keeping the emotion out."

How about the villages?

As president of the Onondaga County Association of Mayors, Minoa Mayor Dick Donovan declared last week's proposal discouraging.

"It's unfair and it's very disheartening, especially since [the association] put forth a great effort to educate the legislature as to how efficient we are; all the different things we do, [the] shared services that we perform," Donovan said. "The villages represent 10 percent of the population of the county and we get less than 3 percent of the sales money, already a small piece of the pie. [The funding] goes to the economic operations of the budget. Because we're all small, it has a significant impact on the way we do business."

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