School tax shift could affect size of school boards: ministry

(Newswatch Group/File)

SOUTH STORMONT – A grassroots plan by a resident to shift education tax dollars away from the public school board could have ramifications down the road for trustees, Cornwall Newswatch has learned.

In emails to Upper Canada District School Board trustees and the Township of South Stormont, Ingleside resident Douglas Leighton has made it clear, he plans to transfer his education tax levy to the Catholic board.

Leighton is convinced that other residents will follow suit after the board decided last month to close Rothwell-Osnabruck Secondary School. There has also been chatter from parents they would send their children to the Catholic board if R-O closes.

In his case, the money from the former deputy reeve from the Township of Osnabruck, amounts to over $500. “As a senior citizen with no children in the public school system, I have take the only action currently available to me and that is withdrawing my support from Public School Supporter and transferring to Separate School Supporter,” Leighton told CNW.

The Township of South Stormont collected roughly $3.7 million in taxes for the four school boards in 2016, according to numbers provided by the municipality.

Roughly 57 per cent of that ($2.1 million) was for the English public board, 20 per cent for the English Catholic board ($733K), five per cent for French public ($171K) and 18 per cent for French Catholic ($684K).

Shifting tax dollars would be largely symbolic when it comes to actual funding for schools but it could affect the future size of those school boards.

Ministry of Education spokesman Heather Irwin said the funding for school boards is based on student need and is largely determined through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) formula.

“The annual school tax revenue of each board (collected by municipalities), including that paid by Roman Catholic ratepayers to their separate school board, is deducted from the amount the GSN regulations determine the board is entitled to for the year. The Province provides the remainder as a grant. Since the tax revenue is always less than the total entitlement, the direction of taxes has no effect on the board’s level of funding,” Irwin said in an email to Cornwall Newswatch.

But ratepayers changing their school board designation on their municipal taxes could affect the size of those boards.

“It should be noted that the designation of school board support also determines the number of trustees that can be elected to a given board, and can affect which board’s schools the ratepayer’s children have a right to attend,” Irwin said.

Meanwhile, a community meeting is happening tonight (April 4) at 7 p.m. at the South Stormont Township Hall in Long Sault in a bid to save R-O.

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