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State monitor presents $1B draft budget for Rochester schools

Jaime Alicea is the State Monitor appointed to the Rochester City School District.
RCSD livestream still
Jaime Alicea is the State Monitor appointed to the Rochester City School District.

The Rochester City School District’s proposed budget for next school year is larger than last year’s — about $37.5 million larger.

It surpasses $1 billion in total, and is the first budget in years that has not included pandemic relief funds. State Monitor Jaime Alicea said about $8 million would need to come from the district’s fund balance.

“I don't think we've quite yet mastered how to just have a balanced budget and keep money in the fund balance for real emergencies and rainy days, not as part of our day-to-day operations long term,” said board vice president Beatriz LeBron.

Alicea said Rochester is in better shape than other Big Five schools when it comes to pulling money from a fund balance this budget season.

“I have done some research from the other big five school districts, and the Rochester City School District right now is using the least amount of money from the fund balance to balance the budget,” Alicea said.

The final numbers will depend on the state’s budget, he said, but no matter what, the district has an obligation to meet the needs of students while being financially responsible.

“You're reorganizing the district. With that you also need to right-size the staff, you need to right-size the services,” Alicea said. “But you've got to keep in mind that the programs and the services that you are going to be providing are going to be based on the needs of the students in the district.”

The district’s draft budget includes funding for more positions in special education and English language learning programs. It would increase funding to charter schools by $22 million.

About 82% of fundingfor the school district comes from state aid.

What's Next

April 10: public budget hearing
April 17: first budget deliberation session
April 24: second budget deliberation session
May 1: third budget deliberation session
May 7: budget adoption,
June: city council to vote on budget, date TBD

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