RCSD board adopts 2024-25 budget

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The Rochester City School District budget was approved last night, with kudos from the state monitor.

“I would like to commend the board, the superintendent, and the chief financial officer for the work they have done for the development of this budget. It is better than the one I went through last year,” said Jaime Alicea, state monitor.

“There is support for literacy in the district, there is support for special education, bilingual education, occupational education, CTE, so it is a budget that is intended to support the students, the staff and the community in the Rochester City School District,” he added. “Great job.”

Cynthia Elliott

Some minor concerns aside, a majority of Board of Education members agreed with that sentiment as well, and voted to adopt the budget in a 5-2 vote. President Cynthia Elliott, Vice President Beatriz LeBron, Amy Maloy, Isaiah Santiago, and Camille Simmons voted to approve the plan while Jacqueline Griffin and James Patterson voted against.

As Alicea noted, the budget includes an increased focus on board goals including literacy, special education, English Language Learning, career and technical education, and athletics. The $1.06 billion budget increases teaching positions, and professional development training or curriculum resources in all those areas.

Prior to the meeting, the board accepted a letter from Rochester City Council that expresses appreciation for the district’s strong financial health and leadership in preparing the budget. At the same time, it states concerns about the structuring of the budget book, which was updated to state standard format this year. Specifically, the Council says it lacks certain financial information such as an amended budget or estimated expenditures for the current fiscal year.

The letter also asks the board to reconsider cuts to summer and afterschool programming, stating that Council was not informed of those reductions beforehand and that the funding exists to support these programs this year.

“We ask that you consider funding these programs as you have in previous years. With a fund balance of over $200M, these investments of less than $1M seem reasonable,” the letter reads.

Elliott said she understood the desires voiced by other commissioners, parents, the community, and city council to see certain areas funded. However, she said, the financial reality does not allow the board to grant every funding request.

“It is important that we keep in mind that we have constrained resources and we have to ensure that what we’re providing are resources that really have an impact around our board goals and the strategic plan,” said Elliott. “(The requests) I’ve heard, they all make sense. But we may not always have the money to be able to honor all those requests. We don’t know what will happen next year.”

Jacqueline Griffin

Based on her comments before the vote, Griffin’s “no” was informed by a belief that the process required more transparency and that money was not being spent effectively, especially at the highest-level administrative positions.

“What are we going to do in reference to reducing at the top instead of at the bottom?” she asked. “In this budget there could have been a lot of cuts that were not made. We have people here who are not doing the job they should do and there’s nobody holding them accountable. Until that happens, we are not going to have the outcomes that we need.”

Superintendent Carmine Peluso mentioned that an upcoming study done through research nonprofit WestEd will allow the district to more effectively staff its administrative roles.

Elliott and LeBron also pointed out to Griffin that the draft budget does cut positions at central office. Those positions were funded through American Rescue Plan Act money which is already set to expire in September however.

“I’m very excited and very hopeful about the work the superintendent and the district staff has already done. I think we’re in a great position to move this district forward and I’m hoping you’re going to be a part of that and help us to move it forward,” Elliott said in response to Griffin.

While their comments largely ranged from neutral to supportive of the budget itself, a number of parent leaders also expressed their desire for more communication and engagement in the future during the public comments part of the meeting.

Final approval of the budget awaits a City Council vote, which is expected in June.

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 “RCSD board adopts 2024-25 budget

  1. When is the thorough review of RCSD performance in educating the children in the district? And then a total overhaul of this broken system? Lots of time and oversight on how to spend money but no time on improving the lowest ( or near lowest) graduation rates in New York State- for decades!! Note: RCSD is capable of spending near the highest budgets in NYS, though.
    Why does Monroe County put up with this?!? You’d think Monroe County residents could get creative and put a stop to this! No other school district in Monroe County would tolerate this!

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