The Rochester City School District’s deficit is now roughly $81 million. That’s up a third from just two weeks ago.
The district’s draft budget was based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal in January. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, though, which Cuomo said has cost the state more than $10 billion.
The district relies on the state for the bulk of its funding, and it saw no increases in this year’s state budget. District Chief Financial Officer Robert Franklin told the Board of Education on Tuesday night that providing free meals during the coronavirus pandemic also contributed to the deficit.
“Our draft budget needs to be amended to eliminate about $24 million in expense,” said Franklin.
He also advised the board to change a rule requiring the district to keep a fund balance.
“I’m going to tell you,” said Franklin. “You need to do this because I’m an accountant, but in our short- and long-term planning, we need to take some kind of action. I’m not telling you what action that’s going to be. You're the commissioners, you'll decide that.”
“There are too many risks going into next year to not have anything in our savings account,” said Dade.
Dade said the district’s fund balance is empty because of the district’s budget problems over the last few years. The board will vote on the measure April 14.
Franklin also warned that Cuomo now has four "takeback" windows for state education aid. Those windows, which were built into this year’s budget, allow Cuomo the ability to reduce aid to schools based on what happens with state revenue before the end of the fiscal year, next March.