Dade seeks to ‘rightsize' the Rochester City School District

Apr 8, 2020

Credit James Brown / WXXI

Superintendent Terry Dade says the Rochester City School District needs to make more budget cuts -- but it's running out of options.

In late March, Dade released his draft budget but said that he would likely amend the proposal based on what the pending state budget agreement. This process is typical, but these budgets are not.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state has lost more than $10 billion in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, and district superintendents like Dade are left with no increase in state funding.

“We came in $17.5 million under what we anticipated, what we projected in our budget,” said Dade. “Now we’re in the position of hearing complaints and concerns from the community in regards to reductions that I proposed in March, but we have to find an additional $24 million in reductions.”

Dade’s initial draft budget aimed to bridge an estimated $61 million shortfall going into the next school year. It called for more than 200 layoffs, closed programs for teenage moms and international students, and trimmed special education and social emotional support. Now, he says, he has to go further.

“There’s only so many areas that we can look at, with a deficit of that magnitude, to not nickel and dime, but actually get to the numbers that we need for a balanced budget,” said Dade. 

. He says recent superintendents, including Dan Lowengard and Bolgen Vargas, previously recommended “rightsizing” the district, by making the district’s staff match its shrinking enrollment. 

“It’s not saying that our students don’t deserve more,” said Dade, “It's not saying that our teachers and staff members don’t deserve more colleagues around them to do this hard and difficult work, it's just that I have a budget that is limited.”

Closing schools, and laying off more staff, including teachers, may be in Dade’s latest budget proposal, which he's scheduled to present on Tuesday.

“They will not be popular for the Rochester City School District,” said Dade. “But it is our obligation to not overspend our money, to budget appropriately and when all said and done, meet the needs of our students to provide them with the education that they deserve.”