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Further Cuts Looming Amid RCSD Financial Woes

By Tyronda James

Rochester City School District Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small.

Rochester City School District superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small provided an update of the District’s finances at the Board of Education’s Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, Aug. 18. 

She said in the last three months she’s worked very closely with administration to put a plan in motion to provide the best educational opportunities for RSCD students. 

Myers-Small said she’s been working with the district’s Chief Financial Officer, Carleen Pierce and State Monitor Shelley Jallow to “develop a plan that ensures both academic and fiscal stabilization of the RCSD. She said a plan “that’s intended to guide us to the future.”  

Myers-Small outlined her conservative approach to spending and provided an update on the District’s current budget and financial status. She reviewed some key challenges the District has been struggling with, including a structural deficit projected at $59.3 million this fiscal year; and a budget gap for the 2021-22 school year is projected even higher at $74 million. 

Myers-Small said “add a pandemic, COVID- 19 to that equation and we have tough times ahead.”

“We know that this impact is far reaching and will have implications on future budgets.”

In order to address these issues, Myers-Small said the District is taking immediate action including imposing:

  • 20% budget reductions for all departments and schools
  • Staffing changes
  • Implementation of internal controls
  • Review of fiscal practices & commitments
  • Creating new opportunities for greater fiscal oversight

Myers-Small said earlier in the year that the district was made aware that the state would be issuing across the board cuts to school districts statewide, due to COVID-19.  

“Late last week we were notified that we would incur a 20% cut in state funding totaling approximately $128 million. Additionally, we are facing cuts in food and transportation services funding,” said Myers-Small. 

Myers-Small said there are several other concerns that have arisen as a result of the in depth review of the current fiscal year budget. 

Pierce said when looking at the current financial affairs, RCSD needs to build upon a platform that is absolutely constructed through the building blocks “of building trust.” 

“Its gotta be built on our beliefs our values, on the richness of our culture, it’s going to take in consideration that we will be driven by the needs of our district our policies our data and using evidence based research to is one those building blocks”

Myers-Small did not really touch on the projected $74 million 2021-22 deficit, she said her commitment to RCSD is steadfast and strong. 

“I am working collectively with my administrative team and the Board of Education to take all the necessary steps, however uncomfortable they may be, to restore the financial stability of the district and to move us forward,” said Myers-Small. 

“In this endeavor we will move “Forward. Together. Now,” which is the theme for the 20/21 school district. “I’ve been the Superintendent for three months now in the RCSD and when I took the helm I promised to be open and transparent with the Board, with our students, with our staff and the community,” Myers-Small said. 

Pierce said looking at our current state of financial affairs “we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

“And what we’re going to have to realize, this isn’t a time for blame or pointing the finger,” Pierce noted. “It’s a time to absolutely embrace our challenges and to overcome those challenges for the sake of our children.”