RCSD financial shortfall: Federal, state officials calling for investigations

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Reports of $50M shortfall, RCSD board member calling for president's resignation

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local, state, and federal officials are all calling for investigations into the Rochester City School District budget discrepancy — a reported financial gap of nearly $50 million, the equivalent of a 5% overspend in the 2018-19 budget.

New York state assemblyman Harry Bronson (D-138) called on state comptroller Tom DiNapoli to “immediately investigate the RCSD books” Monday morning. This comes just one day after Congressman Joe Morelle (D-25) called for a Department of Justice investigation. Locally, city of Rochester officials called the financial issue “deeply troubling” in a statement released Friday afternoon, saying in part:

“It could potentially have significant impact on taxpayers as the lenders will hold RCSD accountable. It is imperative that RCSD and its leadership share the facts along with accurate and complete information regarding its financial stability immediately.”

Bronson is requesting that the state comptroller’s office steps in to audit the fiscal situation and determine how the shortfall came about.

“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.

School officials learned about the discrepancy late Wednesday night, following a routine year-end audit.

Morelle called the finical deficit alarming. He said Sunday that 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.

RCSD 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.”

State Sen. Rich Funke (R-55) also wrote to Comptroller DiNapoli as well as New York state Attorney General Letitia James, asking for an immediate audit and subpoenas if necessary. Funke also said he was going to introduce legislation that would install a “fiscal monitor” for the district, who would have the authority to oversee and veto monetary decisions and budgeting practices.

“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.

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 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.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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