Updated: August 18, 2020 11:20 PM
Created: August 18, 2020 10:48 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Rochester school system faced a new round of budget cuts even more severe than it has seen over the past year as it scrambles to manage a possible 20% cut in state aid.
"Add a pandemic, COVID-19 to that equation and we have tough times ahead,” Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said during an online meeting with the school board on Tuesday evening.
With the state facing its own $14.5 billion shortfall, due largely to coronavirus related lockdowns, she predicts the school district will be more than $120 million in the red and announced a series of cutbacks.
"We are taking immediate action, including a 20% reduction for all departments and schools, staffing changes,” she told the board.
Those measures include freezes in hiring, overtime, some supply purchases, and travel, effective as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, plus plans to cut back on staff she indicated could start in the area of 100 employees.
"I think they would have to add hundreds and hundreds of teachers to the layoff list in order to balance this budget,” exclaimed Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association. “That's not survivable."
He and Dan DiClemente, president of the Brotherhood of Education Non-Teaching Employees insisted the cuts could not go forward, especially as the district struggles to make online learning work, and prepare schools for when students do come back.
"I think the district is really putting forth a really doom and gloom scenario that I don't think will come to fruition and I cautioned the board from acting prematurely on it,” DiClemente said.
Employee representatives say the real effort has to be focused on getting more funds out of the federal government, which has been considering various forms of coronavirus aid.
"Our only hope right now is not concessions from Teachers,” Urbanski said. "The real fix is to get the stimulus funding from the federal government."
The district’s brand new finance director Carleen Pierce says on its current track, the district will end up $6 million underwater by December unless it takes action immediately.
"There is no crying wolf here. There is no over-exaggeration of expenditures. It's an absolute fact. We have to change our spending habits,” she told the board.
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