ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and city of Rochester officials are calling on New York state to sever the ties between the city and the Rochester City School District. This would mean the RCSD would be its own entity when it comes to finances.
This motion comes after a reported $50 million budget gap discovered last week in an end of year audit.
If this were to happen, the RCSD would no longer need the city’s approval in the budget planning process. In a statement released last Friday regarding the shortfall, city officials said in part:
“The city just completed a $50 million Revenue Anticipation Note borrowing for the RCSD which was predicated on financial information prepared and provided by the district.”
City officials say if the district really overspent $50 million, which is an unknown at this point, there’s no way for the city to pay back the loan they took out on behalf of the district, so the price could fall on taxpayers.
Mayor Warren wants to sever ties with the district so that any future financial problems with RCSD won’t also affect the city. However, this is a matter ultimately left up to the state. Warren released a letter sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office asking for state intervention:
School board President Van White says, they don’t know the exact amount at this time.
“There is no confirmation yet,” White said. “And I hear people talked about ranges. I heard somebody say $50 million, that’s just not responsible and that’s why were not tempted or conjured into giving a number that we don’t have.”
White says that education falls under the jurisdiction of the state and he expects a review from the state commissioners of education.
Enuky DeSantis, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Education released a statement, saying in part:
“The reports about Rochester City School District’s financial situation are deeply troubling. The Department is in contact with district officials to help assess the financial situation and determine appropriate next steps to ensure that Rochester students receive the education they need and deserve.”
Public officials at nearly every level of government have spoken out about the budget shortfall.
Congressman Joe Morelle has called on the Department of Justice to Investigate the situation at the federal level.
“Something has to be done. This cannot continue and we need answers and we need them quickly,” Morelle said.
State Assemblyman Harry Bronson has called on New York state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to begin an “immediate investigation.”
“Protecting taxpayer dollars is a fundamental function of any government or governmental agency,” said Bronson in a statement.. “That includes the Rochester City School District, who is dependent not only on the taxpayers of the City, but also on state taxpayers.
State Sen. Rich Funke has called on DiNapoli and New York state Attorney General Letitia James to being auditing and issue subpoenas.
“Kids who want to learn are currently suffering at the hands of an incompetent school board at RCSD — we must act and act now,” Funke said in the letter.
Rochester City council released a statement, saying in part:
“We are deeply concerned and will be monitoring this situation. It is our expectation that the District act expeditiously to share all details of the audit and provide a corrective action plan to the City Council and the public.”
New Superintendent Terry Dade released a video via social media Sunday, addressing parents, students, and staff. He said he has no plans for a reduction of staff this year.
Dade says a finance and audit team will review the deficit, and they should have more answers by the end of the week.
RCSD school board member Beatriz Lebron published a letter Sunday calling for White’s to step down from his leadership position. White told us he would not be stepping down.
The RCSD budget for 2018-2019 was $915,945,579.