It was standing room only. Brockport, Pittsford, Penfield, Gates/Chili, 23 Monroe County School Districts say yes. They're suing the County.
"We do not believe the law permits them to make a unilateral decision to reduce the sales tax monies that go to schools and they can't pick and choose who gets them," said Jody Siegle, the Executive Director of the MCSBA.
Last week, County Executive Maggie Brooks announced her way to eliminate the county budget deficit was to reduce the amount of sales tax dollars traditionally given to suburban school districts. The reduction meant as much as 50% in cuts.
"Our district would be losing about $575,000 in revenue this year and $1.1 million next year. At this point, it looks like a shell game and it really isn't. In effect, the money that we received from the State this year as far as additional revenues, that money is targeted for specific areas to improve student achievement results,” said Susan Allen, the Superintendent of East Irondequoit Schools.
Many school districts are projected to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions beginning in January. For example, Greece is expected to lose $2.2 million, Brockport $800,000 and West Irondequoit $588,765.
"What it is, is 4% on the tax rate, for every $300,000 on our budget that's a percentage on the tax rate, so a 4% tax rate is a lot of money," said Jeff Crane, the Superintendent of West Irondequoit Schools.
Monroe County had this to say about Wednesday night's vote.
“The outcome of this vote is hardly surprising, it will not stop Maggie Brooks from continuing her successful efforts to protect property taxpayers," said John Durso, Monroe County Spokesperson.
Another problem the districts are facing? If the court rules in favor of the districts, the ruling would not take effect until the 2008/2009 school year, which means in the meantime many districts may be forced to raise property taxes as much as 6% in some districts. They may have to also make cuts in programs or tap into their reserves if they exist.
School districts hope the lawsuit will be heard by the end of October or early November. Brooks presents her budget to the County Legislature after the November election.