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City Council meets with RCSD over budget controversy

Kaci Jones
Updated: October 10, 2019 11:10 PM
Created: October 10, 2019 10:47 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Rochester City Council met with Rochester City School District officials to ask questions about the $30 million overspent in the 2018-2019 school district budget.

By law, the city council must give a portion of its tax levy to the district every year. 

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"One $119 million is the amount that we have to give out of our tax levy," said City Council President Loretta Scott. "We approve the entire city school district budget."

Scott says when RCSD officials presented the nearly billion-dollar budget to the city council back in June, she was told the budget was balanced.

"We don't have an additional auditor," said Scott. "We review audit reports done by the district."

An external audit has revealed the district overspent more than $22 million in the 2018-2019 budget, then cleared out $8 million from their savings to cover it.

Superintendent Terry Dade spoke to the City Council on Thursday evening. He explained a bulk of the bill was spent on employee health benefits and substitute teachers. Dade says he believes the two areas were under-budgeted.

"We're really looking at how do we budget responsibly, how are we disciplined in the current year to make sure we're looking for cost avoidance," Dade said.

Dade says cuts will have to happen to close the gap.

"I'm not sure the specific areas but we did lay out some areas under review," Dade said.

A hiring freeze has already started and Dade says officials will be re-evaluating professional development and some summer school programs. Scott says the council is still discussing how to implement a better checks and balances system for the district's budget.

"We cannot continue budgeting the way that it has been done. We do the review, we do all of that," Scott said. "We're going to look at the charter, we're going to look at our options. We have to keep this from occurring again."

Scott says financial borrowing agencies have already warned that the district's finances could impact the city.

"If our rating with the bonding agencies goes down it will cost us more to borrow for capital projects and that will increase the tax levy on citizens," Scott said.


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