ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School Board has notified state officials of a serious discrepancy in its budget.
School officials learned about the discrepancy late Wednesday night, following a routine year-end audit. Officials believe the problem may stem from overspending as a means to cover increased costs for special education programs.
The RSCD’s School Board President, Van White said special education is an area the district has struggled in for awhile. “The fact is, we’ve not done a good job in that area,” he said. “And the other fact is, in order to do better, it’s going to cost more money. The idea is, what we budgeted simply for historically bad performance wasn’t gonna be enough to improve in that area.”
Melanie Funchess is a former RCSD board member. She said special ed has always been underfunded and the money spent last year should’ve been spent all along.
“We are spending what’s necessary to get our children the things they need to graduate. If we had been giving the right amount of money in the beginning, we would not be doing this,” said Funchess.
As for right now, there is no speculation on the exact figure regarding this budget discrepancy. “It would not be responsible for us to speculate what the amount is, because we don’t know what the exact amount is,” remarked Van White. “I will tell you though, there is a concern.”
In a letter to the Chancellor of the State Board of Regents, the School Board President said the district is concerned about the findings of a year-end audit for the 2018-2019 school year.
The letter says the concerns may stem from overspending related to increased health insurance costs and spending for special education. The district intends to conduct a further investigation but said it’s notifying community stakeholders in the interest of full transparency.
School superintendent Terry Dade is expected to provide a more detailed assessment at the RCSD board audit committee meeting next month.
The district says it will, “thoroughly investigate” and “take the necessary actions to ensure financial stability” within the RCSD. Whether or not that means budget cuts is currently unknown.
A spokesperson for the city said this in a statement:
“The Rochester City School District’s recent media release regarding its finances is deeply troubling. To convey that it is being ‘transparent’ about its finances while failing to provide any actual figures regarding its overspending is alarming. 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. If this information was inaccurate, it could potentially have a 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.”