Mayor writes letter opposing bill to fund $435 million for city school improvements in light of FBI probe

Updated: 06/16/2014 5:44 PM
Created: 06/16/2014 11:38 AM WHEC.com
By: Berkeley Brean

The next step to make Rochester city school buildings more modern is under fire by Mayor lovely Warren.

Today, Warren released a letter addressed to our local state lawmakers telling them to not vote for the bill that spends hundreds of millions of dollars to re-build city schools unless changes are made.

The Rochester City School District is in the middle of the $300-million modernization project for 13 city schools. It’s called Phase One. The current bill would authorize more than $400-million to re-build another 26 city schools. That's known as Phase Two.

The concern is that the FBI is investigating how the money in Phase One was spent and the mayor says there is not enough oversight of the money in Phase Two. She’s asking for changes to the legislation for that phase.

Today is the day of dueling letters. There’s the one from Mayor Warren and another from Assemblyman Joe Morelle. One says don't vote for the bill, it's wrought with problems while another one says the problems are fixed. So who gets caught in the middle? Thousands of city school kids that may not get their neighborhood school fixed.

Mayor Warren said, “I think we’re all concerned. Not only our state legislature but the community here. Very concerned about what happened in Phase One.”

The mayor says this is about protecting taxpayer money – the $435-million to be spent fixing up more than two dozen city schools. Warren said, “The fact that you have millions of dollars that have already been spent and money that you cannot get returned back.”

You may have seen some of the work of the project’s Phase One. It’s happening at World of Inquiry, an elementary school sandwiched in between University Avenue and the Inner Loop and East High which is undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation.

In the mayor's letter, she says her concern stems from an FBI investigation into how some of the Phase One money was spend and how the work was done.

Warren said, “This legislation should move forward as long as it has the safeguards in place that will protect taxpayers and the money they are investing in our schools.”

Here's what part of Assemblyman Joe Morelle's letter says. He writes, “It is important to note that the Buffalo and Syracuse city school districts are well ahead of Rochester in the reconstruction of their own schools. It is unthinkable that we would fall any further behind the other upstate cities in the support of our children."

There's not a lot of time. The state legislature session ends Thursday but the changes the mayor wants have to be put into legislation by midnight tonight.


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