City Council approves RCSD budget as some members express concerns

(WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (13WHAM) - Rochester City Council approved the Rochester City School District's proposed budget - albeit with some reluctance. Some have concerns the district could be headed for bankruptcy.

The budget passed on a 6-3 vote, but even some who voted yes are concerned about the district's financial path.

A letter sent to City Council President Loretta Scott by School Board Commissioner Beatriz LeBron is fueling concerns over the district's future. Concerns in that letter project bankruptcy if the district doesn't change its spending habits.

But some Board of Education members say the superintendent did not want to cut staff this year. The budget also called for major additions to staffing, notably in the special education department.

"For the sake of stability for our teaching force, putting the right people in front of our children, I think this is the right action to take right now," Board of Education finance chair Willa Powell said.

The district is also banking on getting a certain amount of state aid. A risk Powell says they can afford to take this year.

But it's an unsettling thought for some on City Council as the city could be liable for potential district shortfalls.

"I feel as though it's my duty as a first-time City Council member to show that I'm going to be fairly diligent about looking at this," said Councilman Mitch Gruber.

Some council members are now calling for more involvement in the school budget process. Some board members say they're open to that idea.

"It's putting us in a position where we're going to have to make some tough decisions," said Councilman Adam McFadden. "Not today, but we are going to have to point out to the district some expectations."

The district has plans to borrow around $8 million from its savings for the next few years to cover budget gaps. But some city council members are concerned the gap will continue to widen.

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