WXXI AM News

Cuomo's budget calls for monitor to oversee Rochester City School District

Jan 21, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal released on Tuesday makes one brief reference to the Rochester City School District, indicating that he would like to see legislation establishing a monitor for the district. 

Assemblyman Harry Bronson has been among the area officials pushing for someone to keep track of the district’s finances, after problems with the prior budget and the current spending plan have caused a potential $65 million budget gap.

The Democrat was pleased to see Cuomo put some language in the budget plan about a state-appointed monitor. 

“I have been pushing for a monitor that would address the fiscal situation of the school district as well as the academic situation of the school district. I’ve actually been pushing for two monitors, one that would handle each one of those,” Bronson said. 

The district has already laid off more than 100 teachers trying to close its budget gap, and district officials have been calling for additional state aid of at least $25 million to help avoid further cuts.

Bronson says he is hopeful a deal can be reached between the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor to get that additional aid.

“Our budget is due on April 1. My hope and desire is to try and get a three-way deal between the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor’s office in connection with that funding gap to close the deficit so that those funds would be available to the school district in May,” Bronson said. 

State Senator Rich Funke, a Republican from Perinton, says he was heartened that Cuomo proposed a monitor for the district, saying he’d been calling for that for months.

However, Rochester Board of Education President Van White said that Cuomo’s proposal doesn’t address a crucial part of the problem. 

“Why don’t you let us have direct line-of-sight authority over the Chief Financial Officer (of the school district) so that we can hold him or her responsible along with the superintendent?” White asked.

White said that a state law designating the Chief Financial Officer as part of the Superintendent Employee Group prevents the School Board from monitoring their actions.

White also wants a broader approach taken by the state regarding school funding.  

“Albany has to step up to the plate and do what the highest court in the state of New York directed it to do which is to fund urban struggling districts more fairly and more equitably,” White said.