Differences in school finances are not unusual. We’ve had these disputes before and I’m sure we’ll have them in the future, too. But the current District administration, in less than one year’s time, has brought the District’s fiscal management to a new level of incompetence and misrepresentation. This serves to further undermine the District’s credibility and puts in jeopardy the education of our students. That is why we will devote the necessary time and effort, in a multi-part series, to tell the truth about the District’s finances. The first of these installments is about the District’s revenues.
Just a few months ago, if you recall, the Rochester City School District falsely alleged that this year’s budget would end with a deficit of $199 million. We didn’t fall for it and we labeled it a “manufactured crisis.” The District then started backpedaling from their grossly exaggerated projections. But now, they’re back to their old tricks. They are claiming poverty again – even in the face of the biggest infusion of State and Federal resources in the history of the District.
We’re not falling for it this time either. Our concerns about the District’s continued misrepresentation of their financial condition were confirmed by the fiscal experts at the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) who conducted an analysis of the District’s budget and related documents. Here’s a brief summary of their conclusions about the District’s actual revenue status:
“The Rochester City School District is in a strong financial condition based on current District reserve levels and their forecast for a surplus again in the 2020-21 school year. Further, this position should further improve significantly going forward since the District will be receiving a large influx of additional state and federal revenues in future years.
The District, as of April 22, 2021, forecasts a surplus of $8.9 million for the 2020-21 year. If this projection is accurate, then the District’s total General Fund balance would increase to $91.2 million.
The District is receiving large increases in both State and Federal aid going forward. Current estimates indicate that the total State formula aid will increase by $83 million (13%) in 2021-22. Foundation Aid comprises $39 million of that increase. Over the next three years, RCSD’s Foundation Aid is scheduled to increase by $80.5 million.
The Federal government has enacted two Education Stabilization funds over the past six months. These Stabilization funds will provide additional resources to the Rochester City School District. Based on data from the NY State Education Department, RCSD will receive $284 million in new Federal funds from these two Stabilization funds. This figure is comprised of $87.5 million from the December 2020 CRRSA Federal package and $196.5 million from the March 2021 ARPA program.
Therefore, in total, the District has $455 million in available additional resources over the next several years. This is comprised of $91 million in estimated reserves, an $80 million increase in Foundation Aid, and over $284 million in new Federal funds.”
Despite experiencing the best fiscal condition in memory, the District is still denying teachers a successor contract, still seeking health care concessions from teachers, and still determined to “right-size” the District – a euphemism for maxing out class sizes, for planned school closings, for future teacher lay-offs, and for additional cuts in programs and services for our students.
Just as we exposed the District’s misrepresentations of their fiscal status before, we will do so again. The District will not succeed in their effort to lower our expectations for our schools and for our students. We will continue to seek a fair successor contract, continue to oppose give-backs in health benefits, continue to insist on smaller class sizes, and continue our advocacy to increase and not diminish services for all our students.
Adam Urbanski, RTA President