What’s in the 2024-25 RCSD proposed budget?

Print More

The Rochester City School District board is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the proposed budget for the 2024-25 school year. The vote comes after months of preparation, three days of board deliberations and a hearing before Rochester City Council. 

“This team and the Board of Education has made the necessary and tough decisions this school year,” said Superintendent Carmine Peluso at the City Council hearing. “After going through some extreme financial difficulties, the district has recovered and is on solid financial footing.”

Even with spending cuts in some areas, the superintendent said, the budget has a focus aligned with board goals, especially on literacy, special education, and social support services. It also provides the financial information for the five middle schools set to open next year under the district’s realignment.

The proposed budget totals more than $1.06 billion, 3.6 percent more than the 2023-24 adopted budget.

Funding once again comes primarily from the state, which accounts for 82 percent of total general fund revenue. Local aid rose this year in large part due to interest earnings, which Peluso warned is a one-time adjustment and will not be in next year’s budget.

American Rescue Plan Act funding was $106 million last year. Because of the unique nature and size of the ARP grant, it was accounted for separately from other funds in previous years’ budgets. Last year it was used in a variety of ways including purchasing additional supplies and materials, contracted services for professional development and marketing, increased student supports, district-wide infrastructure and more. However, it cannot be relied on again in the 2024-25 budget.

“We’ve had the luxury of having federal stimulus funds last year,” said Peluso. “Since (stimulus funds) expire in September, therefore we do not have any sort of luxury of using stimulus funds for this budget.”

Federal aid separate from stimulus funds fell by 15 percent in the draft, from $4.4 million to 3.7 million this year.

Given the temporary increases in revenue this year, next year’s budget process will be more difficult, Peluso cautioned.

“For ’25-’26, the district is facing an even more challenging budget situation with an anticipated limited increase in revenue and (need) to further reduce its dependency on the use of fund balance going forward,” the superintendent said.

On a positive note, the superintendent said that “spin-up” loans or advances on future state funding, which the district most recently required to avoid bankruptcy in 2020, would be paid off by the end of the year. There were also a number of loans taken out decades ago that fell into this category.

“This tells you how financially healthy we are,” Peluso said.

“I just don’t want to skim over that accomplishment financially for this district, I want to applaud the superintendent and his team,” said Beatriz LeBron, board vice president. “When I first arrived to the district, I had never heard of the term ‘spin-up loan’; I didn’t even know that RCSD had one. It wasn’t until the whole budget fiasco, unfortunately, that I learned that not only did we have a deficit, we had a deficit with a loan we had already taken out previously, almost two decades ago, and we were still paying on that loan.

“We’re in a position we haven’t been in since the ’90s, maybe even before then, financially,” she added.

The draft budget is also spending $8 million in appropriated fund balance. This is an increase compared to $5 million last year, but far less than the reported $80 million in fund reserves required by Buffalo schools to balance their budget.

While some positions will see an increase compared to last year, overall full-time-equivalent hours will decrease by 58.8. (There are a total of 5,620.6 FTE hours in the draft budget) This mainly will come from cuts to regular teacher positions in grades 1 to 6 (56.3 FTE hours) and 4 to 6 (28 FTE hours) as well as building principals, their assistants, supervisors of instructional programs (26.4), and custodial staff (16.5).

Special education teachers (25.9), paraprofessionals (37), occupational teachers in grades seven to 12 (16.2), and social work service positions (9.5) all had the largest increases. FTE hours for English Language Learning teachers from grades 1 to 6 will increase by 16.5 while that same position for grades 7 to 12 will slightly decrease by 0.3.

Two out of four Priority 1 board goals include improving literacy proficiency. For example, Goal 1B aims for an increase from 15 percent to 50 percent in the New York State ELA assessment for Grade 3 by June 2028. This focus is also reflected in the draft with both FTE hours and programming spending. 

The budget includes a position for an executive director for integrated literacy and 44.5 FTE hours for reading teachers, ensuring at least one for each Pre-K to 6 and 7 and 8 school buildings. Amplify Foundational Curriculum, Really Great Reading, and LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) are also examples of literacy-based training for students and teachers that are included in the draft’s proposed curriculum development.

“(Priority 1) is always the focal point of any of our work and if it’s not going to lend to any of these goals, then that’s something we should not be focusing our efforts on,” Deputy Superintendent Demario Strickland said.

Student support services is another focus area in the draft, with every elementary school now having a full-time counselor and social-emotional learning curriculum from Second Step and Monique Burr Foundation for grades K to 8.

Career and technical education will see a spending boost from $1.5 million to $9.3 million. Apart from covering instructional supplies, the increase will enable the expansion of Career Pathways to Public Safety, family and consumer science, business and marketing programs. It will also support new site-based coordinators, who are responsible for certifying students.

Certain programs, especially those supported primarily by American Rescue Plan Act funding, such as summer enrichment, will end in the upcoming school year.

The 2024-25 draft also includes a breakdown of budgets by school, including the five new schools to be opened next year: Padilla High School at the Franklin campus, Loretta Johnson Middle School at the Wilson Foundational campus, Thurgood Marshall Middle School at the Charlotte campus, Andrew A. Langston Middle School at the Jefferson campus, and Dr. Freddie Thomas Middle School.

Of those five, Padilla has the largest projected student enrollment (1,490) and budget ($17 million). The other middle schools range from 309 to 580 students and budgets totaling $4.9 million to $6.9 million.

This realignment will allow for easier enrichment in terms of arts, theater and athletics, Peluso says. With the aligned middle schools, over 30 new athletic offerings, mostly at the modified level, will be available next year. This is even with the athletics program remaining at the $13 million level, similar to 2023-24.

Among continuing schools, Edison Career & Technology High School had the highest total allocation, $20 million. That reflects another district goal related to career and technical education. East Upper and Lower Schools have budgets of $13 million and $6.6 million, respectively

As in previous years, the 2024-25 budget book contains past, present and projected enrollment in the district. It estimates 28,812 total K-12 students K-12 in the next school year, a decline of less than 1 percent.

Rochester school district enrollment has been falling for more than two decades. Nearly 10,000 more students attended city schools in the 2000-01 school year, which translates to a decline of 23 percent.

Among public school students, 25 percent were classified as Students with Disabilities and 15 percent as English Language Learners in the 2019-20 school year. Projections show these proportions holding steady (in fact, slightly increasing by 1 to 2 percentage points) in the face of otherwise declining enrollment.

Charter schools make up a significant portion of total enrollment, with 7,800 (27 percent) of all projected enrollment in the 2024-25 school year.

This continues a growth trend that started in the mid-2010s, when about half of currently operating charter schools opened their doors. They went from making up 5 percent of total enrollment to 20 percent in that decade. Projections from the district estimate that one in three students in the city will be enrolled in a charter in the next four years.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

One thought on “What’s in the 2024-25 RCSD proposed budget?

  1. Should this budget actually will teach kids, should it actually prepare them for a career or profession, I would approve every dollar. Let me tell what the results will be a year from now……the same old results and the same arguments and the same excuses and ……….A RCSD in crisis, still. A RCSB still doing the same things over and over expecting different (improved) results. An Adam Urbanski still at the helm of a failing RCSS. And there you have it. See you next year when the results followed by excuses will once again be uttered.
    Semper Fi.
    Take this in, think about this….over one BILLION dollars!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *