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RCSD officials react to state comptroller's audit

Andrew Hyman
Created: January 23, 2020 11:34 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – Leaders in the Rochester City School District say a state investigation released Thursday does not tell the whole story.

The report from the New York State Comptroller's Office says if the district does not cut more staff or get more money, it'll be out of money by the last day of class in June.

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It is a difficult outlook, on a difficult situation, though Superintendent Terry Dade says the report left the district with some questions to ask.

"We believe the final figures look a bit different than what was reported," Dade said.

Because he says, the information released in the report, is not up to date.

Dade says, the estimates reflect where the district stood back on Nov. 12, 2019, when Dade presented his first plan to address the district’s current budget deficit.  

This meeting happened before the district laid off more than 100 teachers and staff on Dec 19.

The report praised Dade’s cost-saving plan, but Chief Financial Officer Robert Franklin believes the state did not account for other cost-cutting moves, too.

"The state comptroller is typically engaged to look back in time, not forward," he said.

In an interview with News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean, the man who helped lead the investigation said:

"The greatest takeaway should be is that the problem is not going to go away and it is potentially bigger than initially estimated," said Deputy Comptroller Elliott Auerbach in the division of local government and school accountability.

“We believe the state comptroller's estimate is $6.3 million dollars higher than our estimate," Frankin said.

In the report, the comptroller’s office says, “The $6.4 million difference being attributed primarily to collectively bargained benefits which seem unlikely to materialize, 4 extended day learning which is accounted for in the grants fund instead of the general fund and a more conservative estimate of the substitute teacher cost efficiencies based upon the limited amount of data available since its implementation.”

Franklin says these estimates are conservative, and reflect an opinion, not a fact.

Compare the numbers in the report.

_______________________

Here are the RCSD estimates: 

Initial Deficit: $68.4 million

Reductions/Efficiencies: $28 million

Staff cuts: $9.7 million

Deficit balance: $27.1 million 

_______________________

Here are the Comptroller's estimates: 

Initial Deficit: $70.7 million

Reductions/Efficiencies: $21.6 million

Staff cuts: $8.6 million

Deficit balance: $40.5 million

Based on the report, the comptroller’s office says district and the mayor need to be asking the state for roughly 50% more than what they are requesting.

Though, Dade says, it's still too early to make that prediction.

"We're very confident that we could make the adjustments necessary with the $25 million support to end the year where we need to for this academic year," Dade said.

The OSC report says the school district's estimate on how much money it was going to take in in 2018-19 and 2019-20 was "reasonable."

But the amount of money it projected it was going to spend was "severely underestimated." 

For instance, in the 2018-19 budget, the OSC report says RCSD budgeted $69.7 million for health care. It ended up paying $85.6 million.

The report says RCSD budgeted $10 million for substitute teachers. It ended up paying $17.8 million. 

Franklin says the district is working on ways to continuously decrease expenses and increase revenues and is confident the district will ‘be able to get its arms around a reasonable estimate for health and dental costs going forward.

Superintendent Dade brought forth another plan to save the district money and prevent more layoffs.

In a presentation, Dade suggested repurposing some schools as an adjustment to the lower enrollment. 

The recommendation is to reconfigure Franklin and Monroe into upper and lower schools.

His presentation says this would save the district more than $4 million. 

The comptroller’s office says it will release a full audit sometime in the spring.


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