Rep. Morelle calls for DOJ investigation into RCSD budget shortfall

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Congressman Joe Morelle is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Rochester City School District.

He calls it a matter of urgency after the district revealed it is in serious financial trouble.

“Something has to be done. This cannot continue and we need answers and we need them quickly,” said Morelle, a Democrat representing New York’s 25th district.

The RCSD Board of Education made public that internal audits revealed overspending in the district’s 2018-19 budget on Friday.

Morelle calls the finical deficit alarming. He says since the district gets some of its funding from the federal government, the Department of Justice should investigate.

“It ends up undermining the financial stability of the city of Rochester itself so this a very very big deal, that’s why I’ve taken this extraordinary step,” said Congressman Morelle.

The school district has not yet given the exact number of the shortfall, but Morelle is citing published reports that suggest a financial gap of nearly $50 million. This is the equivalent of a 5% overspend in RCSD’s 2018-19 budget.

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.

As for a federal investigation, White says “whether one needs the federal government, attorney general barrr…if he feels that there’s something within his statuary authority and jurisdiction, we’ve never been a district to shy away from an investigation.”

Congressman Morelle believes that is exactly what needs to happen next.

“I don’t what’s happened,” Morelle said. “Means either the chief financial officer didn’t know what was going on, which would be inconceivable to me or overstated their revenues. I’m not sure what happened. I think that’s the problem. We have so little information right now but we need to make sure that were have a very robust investigation and multiple levels of government.”

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 resignation. White told us he would not be stepping down.

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