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Rochester city school district leaders project $916M budget for next school year

RCSD Superintendent Carmine Peluso explains the budget process at a public seminar on Tuesday.
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Carmine Peluso is the Superintendent at the Rochester City School District.

Rochester City School District leadership is proposing a $916.6 million dollar budget for next school year.

That’s less than the last two years. However, the tentative plan doesn’t cover a $14 million gap in revenue.

“We're budgeting this on the governor's budget, which may change again and some numbers may change,” Superintendent Carmine Peluso said during his presentation to the school board on Tuesday. “So, we have to see where that is.”

The budget is currently a moving target, he said, until the state budget is adopted in the spring. This year’s proposal also reflects the end of federal pandemic relief grants.

“We're really examining some of the ARP (American Rescue Plan Act) funded positions and programs and seeing where we can reassign them to other grants,” Peluso said. “Or, if they're not where they need to be, then we have to make some decisions on whether to end them or not.”

Another budget consideration is charter schools. While enrollment in district schools is declining, it is increasing at charter schools whose funding is funneled through the city school district’s budget.

Revenue sources called transitional aid and charter school basic aid from the state account for some of those adjustments.

“That ... increases as we lose more students to charter schools, “ said Chief Financial Officer Shawn Farr. “The state provides us some support for that ... Theoretically we'd be adjusting our expenses as we lose those students.”

Meanwhile, more cuts are expected and some could hit Central Office, Peluso said. In his presentation, those possible reductions are listed as “still being determined.”

“We're looking at Central Office staffing and the expenses and making some decisions on what needs to happen next, in terms of what kind of efficiencies we could have here at Central Office,” Peluso said.

School board commissioner Amy Maloy has been vocal about reducing overhead and administrative costs at Central Office. Ahead of a vote on the school reconfiguration plan in October, she said Central Office should be reconfigured next. Maloy said she’d rather avoid any cuts closer to classrooms. That includes a current proposal to axe 35 building substitute positions.

“Building subs, I think, are the closest to kids in our classrooms, and we already have a sub shortage,” Maloy said. “I know these are tough calls. But when I look at things that we have to reduce, things that are closest to our kids in the classroom generally give me pause.”

What’s next?

March 1: Rochester City School District submits draft budget to State Monitor Jaime Alicea.

March 20: Alicea presents feedback and the budget book is released.

April 30: Budget hearing with City Council.

May 7: School board vote to adopt budget. City Council will vote on the budget in June.

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