Passage of proposed tax-limitation initiatives could cost the Davis Area Vocational Center as much as 40 percent of its operating budget.
Center officials said the initial impact looks less imposing, however.The center would lose about $382,349 or 16 percent of its total budget from state revenue sources, if the initiative passes. The real concern, however, is the effect the reductions would have on federal money now coming to the center. Director Jack Shell said the "maintenance-of-effort" clause in most federal matching-money allocations could force the forfeiture of that money, meaning another $600,000 loss to the center.
The maintenance-of-effort rule requires that schools receiving federal money not use the federal funds to supplant state funding. If state spending at the institution occurs and programs are cut as a result, a corresponding amount of federal money is then withdrawn.
Shell said he has been working on some suggestions on how the center could absorb the loss if the initiatives pass but is reluctant to discuss them publicly because he does not want to give staff members the "jitters."
Board member Henry Heath said that may have to occur because it is imperative that the public be informed of the possible effects of the tax initiatives and what they will do to education programs.
"We're facing a difficult challenge and we need to educate the public of what is happening and what the results will be," Heath said.
Heath, who is also a Davis Board of Education member and is working with a committee called Taxpayers for Responsible Taxation, said he is working with former legislator David Irvine to get a plank in the Republican platform stating that the party's candidates oppose the initiatives as written. He said polls show that more than 90 percent of the candidates oppose the initiatives and that they should have a platform reflecting their feelings. He said the plank should contain wording to indicate concern and a desire to reduce taxes but not through the initiatives.
Other center board members agreed. However, Boyd Thurgood, a former Syracuse mayor, said he believes a low-key approach may be more effective. He said simply providing a public forum for the fact to be presented, without an emotional confrontation, is likely to have a more beneficial effect. He said he believes once informed, the public will reject the initiatives.
"We need to sell the idea of no rollbacks, but we need to do it subtle," Thurgood said.
Heath said polls show a different reading of public attitudes and therefore an aggressive approach is needed. He agreed with trying to avoid confrontation but said efforts still have to be made now to get the information before the public. "We need to give them the facts, not just conclusions."
Board member Louenda Downs said efforts should not focus on telling people how to vote. She said the logical vote is against the initiatives, and she believes that will be the vote of the people if they are given the facts in a manner that allows them to make an informed decision.