Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren is asking state officials to "sever the connection" between city government and the Rochester school district, requiring the district to raise its own funds. City government provides a little over $119 million of the district's budget, which is nearly $1 billion.
Warren's request comes on the heels of the district's announcement last week that it overspent its budget last year. District officials are still trying to determine how much the budget was out of line, and the news has brought condemnation from city officials and US Representative Joe Morelle, who has asked the federal justice department to investigate.
If the state legislature and the governor agreed to Warren's request, the district would become fiscally independent and would have its own taxing authority. Voters would have to approve the district's budget each year. Currently, Rochester and the state's other large cities are fiscally dependent; their city governments approve their budgets and raise taxes to help pay for the districts' expenses. Suburban and rural school districts have their own taxing authority. All of the districts also get money from state and federal governments and from grants.
Warren plans to send a letter to state legislative leaders, the governor, and the local state delegation asking for the change, city spokesperson Justin Roj said on Monday afternoon.
City Council President Loretta Scott and finance committee Chair Malik Evans – a former school board president himself – released a statement this afternoon calling the news about the district's finances "troubling." The finance committee has asked that members of the district's finance department and the school board's finance committee meet with Evans' committee to discuss the issue on October 10.
Mary Anna Towler writes for CITY Newspaper.