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WG athletics, fine arts on shaky ground

Of the nearly $70 million annual budget, the West Genesee Central School District stands to lose $1.2 million in sales tax revenue shared by Onondaga County, a figure which could wipe out the fine arts and athletics budget.

All revisions to the sales tax sharing agreement being considered by the county legislature will cut sales tax shared with school districts.

"$1.2 million covers our entire athletics, entire fine arts and extracurricular activities," Superintendent of Schools Christpher Brown said.

After making significant cuts last year, Brown said to balance the 2011-12 budget the district will be forced to dip into athletics, fine arts and extracurriculars, or impose a 3 percent tax increase, something he and the board of education are not willing to do.

"I've never been in the business of threatening the public with things that are near and dear to their hearts," Brown said. "I wouldn't be saying this if it wasn't something that I had to do. If they cut sales tax, any decision I make will have a direct impact on the kids."

Pay to play?

With no budget for sports, fine arts and extracurriculars, community members have questioned whether student athletes -- or their parents -- will be forced to pay to play out of pocket.

Town Councilor Bill Davern recalled a school year in the 1980s when the voters turned down the school budget and student athletes were forced to fund their own participation. Massive fundraising efforts helped defray the costs for some, and in some cases individuals were "sponsored" by community members.

But that's not an option, Brown said.

If a student couldn't afford to play a sport or participate in marching band, it would be the same as the district saying they couldn't participate, he added.

"We can think about charging to play sports or whatever, but the reality is we really can't when the day is over," Brown said.

Community support

In spite of the dramatic cuts the district faces, Brown said the feedback from the community has been supportive and trusting.

"Most community members are just concerned," Brown said. "This community absolutely has our back, without question."

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