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RCSD faces possible new budget gap if state doesn't increase funding

Charles Molineaux
Updated: April 06, 2020 11:09 PM
Created: April 06, 2020 10:37 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester school leaders braced for yet another painful financial hit and called for creative brainstorming as they expected news of a new setback for the school district’s newly developed budget.

“We are all in crisis in the state, in the city, and in this nation,” Van White, the president of the Rochester School Board, said. 

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White predicted the newest challenge would come when Superintendent Terry Dade presented new numbers to the school board on Tuesday evening.

After cutbacks that involved laying off more than 200 employees, mostly teachers, and an eleventh-hour $35 million supplemental aid package from the state, all to balance the district’s 2019-2020 school year budget, Dade delivered a lean new proposed budget for the 2020-2021 school year in March.  

But that budget included the expectation of an increase in money from Albany. After weeks of New York battling a pandemic, the economic ravages of the coronavirus have exploded the state’s projected budget deficit by billions.

“The state is giving a strong signal that no district should expect any more aid next year then they are receiving this year,” Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said.

Urbanski said his sources from Albany, and the school system, reported that flat funding from the state would put the district’s new budget $17.5 million in the red, plus another $2.5 million spent on the system’s meal program that has continued even as schools were closed, making a $20 million gap.

White declared he saw hope in President Trump’s coronavirus relief bill which includes a “school stabilization fund” and estimated the fund could bring Rochester about $29 million, enough to erase the worst of the shortfall.

White predicted when the numbers were unveiled before the school board on Tuesday evening, it would be time to brainstorm some big ideas.  

“There are no sacred cows and nothing will be left off the table,” White said, granting that could include more school closings, and more layoffs, after the district just let more than 200 employees go in the middle of the current school year.

White also explained that in a budget that’s overwhelmingly employees salaries, and overwhelmingly teacher salaries, that would probably mean going after teachers again.

“It’s not sustainable and it’s not right,” Urbanski said. “And I think it will diminish the likelihood that families would choose to send their children to Rochester public schools.”


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