Maggie Brooks’ Tax Theft: What it Means to Your School

Maggie Brooks is so sure her plan to balance the budget of the County is so beyond reproach, so fair, that there was absolutely no reason the public needed to know about it until it was too late.  She’s started an advertising blitz the likes of which would even make Billy Fuccillo blush, ostensibly because things as fair as F.A.I.R. require a lot of explanation.  And she claims, as the first leg of her stool, that the plan is “fair” and reduces the taxes of Monroe County residents:

MyMonroe. Opening Up Government. | Monroe County, NY

The Plan is fair to taxpayers, cutting the Monroe County property tax rate by eleven cents per thousand dollars of assessed value, as a way to reduce the property tax burden. At the same time, the Plan protects and maintains the County’s revenue sharing with towns, villages and the City of Rochester at existing “Morin-Ryan” levels.

But you probably already knew that those costs wouldn’t just disappear because Maggie said so, right? So, how does this affect your taxes? How does this affect your local school system?  

The County and the local school systems have been sharing sales tax receipts for the last 30 years, until Maggie Brooks decided to unilaterally change the rules of the game. This was likely the last thing on the minds of your local school superintendent, much less the budget office of the school. But that is where we are now, and the changes happen immediately.

“What’s that,” you ask?  That’s right, immediately.  In most cases, school districts will solve “housekeeping” issues before the year starts, and that generally means that the lion’s share of the tax money is already spent.  And since the changes initiated by the Republican-led Monroe County Legislature go into effect immediately, the infusion of cash that schools have anticipated has suddenly – and without so much as a day’s warning – been cut off.

That means immediate budget gaps for schools across the county, even those well-to-do schools in Brighton and Pittsford.  How much might that shortfall be?  Well, reports are coming in that, even in what you’d call middle-range school districts, that number could be well over half a million dollars for this year alone.  That number is expected to double – at least – next year.  So, don’t be surprised if Little Billy’s football games get canceled, if the new uniforms for the marching band don’t happen, if field trips become scaled back to trips out to the soccer field.  Don’t be surprised, be angry.  Angry at the Republicans in the Monroe County Legislature.

What is really quite deplorable about this decision by Maggie Brooks and the Monroe County Legislature is that the increase in state funding that Governor Spitzer provided was specifically targeted and rated based on the rate of poverty in each school district. That means that those towns for whom affording a decent education system is the hardest will be those required to cough up the most cash, just to get to pre-theft levels.  This is a betrayal of trust, done like a thief in the night by a bunch of people who apparently aren’t aware that elections are coming up soon.

And will you, the taxpayer, just accept that your kid’s education is going to suffer?  Are you going to reject the next budget because you like your supposed tax break?  Or will you, like so many others, have to take the burden on yourself once again and accept the local tax hike so Maggie can crow about her effectively non-existent tax break?  Of course you will.  And how much will that be?

Well, you can bet that it’s going to be roughly the same as what you lost, and probably more.  All that Maggie Brooks is doing is solving the County’s budget problems at the expense of your kid.

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By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.