RCSD CFO to Rochester School Board: 'Failure is not an option'

Berkeley Brean
Created: October 21, 2020 05:24 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Our whole community got a shock last night. 

If you thought the financial situation with the Rochester City School District was bad earlier this year, we just found out it's worse. 

The bad news was delivered by the school district CFO. 

The new deficit of the city school district is at least $117 million and could be as high as $199 million

Beatriz Lebron, Commissioner Rochester School Board: "Just want to make sure that's clear and if you want to confirm that that's what people are seeing and hearing right now."

Carleen Pierce, RCSD CFO: "That's what people are seeing right now. And you also notice the line item that's missing is state aid."

And the district is projecting a 20% cut in state aid. Twenty percent of the projected state aid to RCSD equals about $130 million. 

Carleen Pierce, RCSD CFO: "And again, we keep saying this, but we have expended all our reserves. We have no savings accounts to fall back on."

The biggest factor? $86 million in debt obligations. That's money the district owes.

The vice president of the school board asked the question a lot of people are asking.

Cynthia Elliott, Vice President Rochester School Board: "Just the bottom line. Are we going to be able to get out of this financial position that we're in?"

Carleen Pierce, RCSD CFO: "My colleagues will tell you that the phrase I keep saying to them is 'failure is not an option.' So that means we absolutely will get out of this financial condition."

When asked how long it will take, Pierce said it depends on how well the board and distinct work together but predicted two to three years. 

And then the superintendent stepped in. 

She said the key is getting the school board to be on the same page financially. 

Dr. Lesli Myers-Small, RCSD Superintendent: "I don't know if it's denial or we just don't want to accept where we are but I've been trying to be as clear without being draconian that we do have some fiscal issues."

The district cut about 100 teachers earlier this year. In August, the superintendent said the employee cuts will reach another 100. 

Adam Urbanksi, RTA President: "If they were to make up that deficit with layoffs, they might as well turn the lights off in this district."

The district has to show what it's going to cut to balance the budget at the next school board meeting in November. 

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