RCSD unearths budget woes

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The Rochester City School District faces newly uncovered budget woes.

An internal audit found what RCSD Board of Education president Van White called in a Sept. 19 letter to Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa “overspending in certain areas.” 

The district had only learned of the problems a day earlier, White said. What impact the newly uncovered budget troubles might have on the already financially strained city schools is not clear at this point.  

Calling the year-end audit findings preliminary, White did not detail the extent of the overspending. The audit found discrepancies in the district’s self-funded insurance costs and in special education spending, he told Rosa. Superintendent Terry Dade would provide more details at an October board meeting, White promised.

Dade, who is new on the job, did not have a hand in making the spending plan, which was drawn up by Interim Superintendent Dan Lowengard and approved by the currently sitting school board.

The budget news comes with the question of whether the RCSD might be taken over by the state hanging over the city schools. Citing ills detailed in Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino’s scathing November 2018 report on the RCSD, Chancellor Rosa has previously raised such a possibility and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has publicly pressed for such an outcome.

Rosa has not yet replied to White’s letter. Whether the chancellor, who turned in her resignation earlier this year and had planned to leave Aug. 31, would act now is not clear. After rejecting the RCSD’s initial plan to correct issues cited by Aquino, she rated the district’s second submission as a step forward but asked for some revisions. 

Aquino, who was to have overseen the district’s efforts to correct the problems he catalogued, quit before Rosa resigned, offering little in the way of explanation. Rosa has not replaced him.  

“The Rochester Board of Education and Superintendent Dade are committed to working closely together to thoroughly investigate and take the necessary actions to ensure financial stability as we move forward on behalf of our students and families,” an RCSD release states.

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.

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