ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School District School Board approved a budget of over $983 million dollars Tuesday night, the vote passing four to three.

Before the vote, parents, students and teachers were outside the Board of Education demanding greater transparency with the budget.

Speakers at Tuesday’s rally said with this nearly $1 billion budget — a jump from last year — they just don’t know where the funds are going.

They called for robust funding for teacher diversity, better food, multi-lingual education, mental health programs and more in the budget with more counselors and social workers.

The district as a whole is faced with declining enrollment. State monitor Shelley Jallow weighed in back in March on the budget proposal, outlining RCSD’s history of poor fiscal management. She said the district needed to align resources with the declining enrollment, and stop “buying now” and trying to pay for it later.

Jallow did say Tuesday this budget has come a long way, but Albany will be watching closely how this spending pans out.

Commissioner Beatriz LeBron told us she voted “no” on the budget due to a lack of transparency.

“Voting tonight should not be this difficult,” LeBron said before the vote. “When we’re voting on almost a billion dollars, we should know exactly how this budget is serving students and families, and unfortunately it lacks that transparency, especially this year.”

Stevie Vargas with the Alliance for Quality Education says something’s lacking. “But what we have seen is a lack of robust collaboration with community members,” she says.

Vargas feels parents and the community should be more involved in where dollars are going. “We really want to make sure that we are making this district a restorative district,” she says.

Statement from RCSD

This evening, the Rochester Board of Education approved the 2022 – 2023 RCSD budget totaling $983,599,049. This budget reflects a commitment to students and sets priorities for delivering high-quality instruction, social-emotional wellness and health, and additional support for our English Language Learners (ELL) and Students with Disabilities. It prioritizes spending based on strategic, academic, and financial plans and includes federal emergency funds (ARP and CRRSA) to address needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This budget also provides the opportunity to maintain a healthy fund balance, which ensures fiscal stability and responsibility. While reducing operating expenses, unfilled and frozen vacant positions, out-of-district travel, and transitioning some general fund expenditures to ARP and CRRSA occurred, this budget reflects a commitment to our scholars and staff.

Highlights include:

  • Funding for additional social workers, increased capacity for the ROC Restorative team, and increases in school health services.
  • A new science curriculum that includes materials aligned to new science measures. Scholars will have access to new state-of-the-art equipment, bringing them into a 21st-century learning environment.
  • Stronger Multi-Tiered Support Systems (MTSS) and compliance regulations to provide academic interventions and supports for Students with Disabilities.
  • Fortified resources for Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) to support ELL students who transitioned from their country to ours. 
  • Receivership schools will have greater support for staff development, programming for foundational skills, and the ability for school leaders to respond more independently to their school’s needs.
  • Aligned opportunities for job-embedded professional development. District-wide programming will center on literacy training, project management, leadership capacity, and opportunities for collaboration between departments.  
  • An additional $3M in food service to upgrade meal options, including rice and pasta bowls, salad bars, more plant-based entrees for vegetarian scholars, and hot meals. 
  • An increase in family engagement by providing a platform for every school to communicate with families in multiple languages.
  • Implementation of the Data Wise system to provide continuous improvement.
  • A high school redesign, where every secondary school will participate in visioning sessions with students and our entire community to create schools of the future.
  • School beautification and learning spaces that are more responsive and inviting to students.
  • Over 30 different summer programs for students in grades K-12 that focus on academics, arts, sports, career and technical education, and STEAM.