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RCSD releases proposed budget for next school year

James Brown

The Rochester City School District published their proposed budget for the upcoming school year on Thursday.

The district posted the budget on their website along with a letter from Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small. Among the more notable changes from last year’s adopted budget is a substantial increase in spending for English Language Learners.

In her letter, Myers-Small said that what was projected to be a roughly $30 million deficit has been reduced to $10 million — meaning the district would have to pull those funds from their reserves to balance the budget.

However, she also said there would be investments in school beautification, language access, and STEM materials.

“We will also be implementing a new science curriculum that includes materials aligned to new science measures,” Myers-Small stated. “Our scholars will have access to new state-of-the-art equipment, bringing them into a 21st century learning environment.”

School board president Cynthia Elliot said that earlier this week she met with district staff to negotiate changes in the budget. Those changes include cutting vacancies by 225 positions — a move that state monitor Shelley Jallow had pushed for weeks ago.

“For the future of this distance for... the longevity of this district, we've got to make sure that we're doing our due diligence,” Elliot said.

However, the proposed budget handed to school board members on Thursday won't include those changes because of how recently they were made, she said.

Elliot expects that the district could operate with a surplus for the next few years until 2027 if the district gets creative with ways to decrease expenses and increase revenue, instead of “throwing money out the window,” she said.

“We always have asked the state for money, but we're going back year after year asking the state for money... We’ve got almost a billion-dollar budget and we don't seem to be able to educate kids off of a billion dollars,” she said. “That's ludicrous.”

The budget will be sent to the state monitor Shelley Jallow and state education commissioner Betty Rosa on Friday. From there, the school board and district administration will deliberate over the coming weeks. A public hearing for the budget will take place on April 14.

The budget process has been fraught with delays, confusion, and quarreling in recent weeks.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.