By Tyronda James
At Rochester Board of Education Special Meeting, Monday, RCSD Superintendent, Terry Dade provided updates as it relates to the current fiscal situation and $64.8 million budget deficit.
Dade said he has been lobbying for additional funding and support from the state. In summary, Dade stated that he has had ongoing meetings and phone calls with the Division of the Budget, Deputy Charles Williams, Assistant Chief Budget Examiner Mike Smingler, Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, Interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe, Executive Director Jennifer K. Pyle from Big5 NYS School Districts.
Dade said he has also spoken to state officials including Assembly members David Gantt, Harry Bronson and Jamie Romeo, and senators Rich Funke and Joe Robach. He said he also spoke with Congressman Joe Morelle.
Just over this past week, Dade said has been in direct contact with these legislatures’ members but noted that the sentiment provided amongst most of Albany state delegation thus far is that there is no likelihood of immediate relief for the district.
“I am still looking for that guarantee of $35 to $40 million from the state,” he said.
He noted that though there are no impossibilities, due to logistics of procedures in Albany it could be March 2020 before a decision is made.
Reductions of $30 million have been identified that do not include staff reductions, which is nearly half of the district’s total deficit.
Included in the $30 million of reductions is $10 million of cash capital approved by Mayor Lovely Warren and City Council. However, the $10 million identified in staff reductions is not nearly enough to fully close the deficit. Even with staff reductions, the district would still need a commitment of $25 million from the state.
“I also want to bring to everyone’s attention that if we don’t do anything right now or come up with a comprehensive plan to adjust our deficit we would run out of money in the month of May,” Dade said.
He said there would be no payroll for anybody. A delay would cost the district approximately $1.6 million and would add to the deficit each month. Concessions need to be made before Thursday.
Dade says he has upcoming meetings with additional contacts throughout the week looking towards collaborative solutions to address the situation.
Commissioner Beatriz LeBron proposed a delay until January 30 to allow the state to either come through or to finalize concession conversations.
“We also may potentially not be able to hit full payroll even as early as March,” LeBron said. “Concessions beforehand would put pressure on the governor’s office not to be ignored.”
Dade says he still feels that due to the current state of affairs and talks of saving jobs that things can happen in a short time frame.
Board President Van White said it was not likely that the collective bargaining units will affirmatively give a definitive decision on concessions due to procedures and time constraints before Thursday’s meeting.
“This is about not them, not us, and not you, this is about our children,” White expressed. “More can be done at central office. Expressed cuts and reductions in staff should come from people who are furthest away from students and the classrooms. We need to look deliberately at Central office for cuts.”
LeBron said conversations being had now should’ve happened before resolutions and voting for the 5% cuts on November 2. She also feels that the board and board staff need to be taking the lead on cuts.
Commissioner Natalie Sheppard voiced her frustrations regarding the board not being “proactive.”
“We continue to see that people are not motivated by students,” she said “I’m not supporting a plan that doesn’t support students and at the same time supporting staff. “Students are being propped up as bargaining tools.
Dade said concessions need to be on the table before Thursday.
“New York State is already dealing with a $6 billion deficit. I’ve been asked what the RCSD has done to reduce the deficit on our own? The longer we put this off the worst it will be. The longer we wait the more money—an additional $1.6 – $1.7 million if the state does not provide the total $40 million needed.
White shared that some RCSD teachers are looking to apply for teaching jobs with surrounding districts.
LeBron and Sheppard wanted to make it clear that these issues do not solely fall on Dade. LeBron declared, “I will not do anything that does not support Superintendent Dade and will not vote on resolutions that were not put forth by the Superintendent.”
Board members and staff discussed the possible relocation of the venue due to an over flux of speakers for the December 19 meeting. Michael Schmidt’s Chief of Operations discussed a projected budget of $10,000 for a venue change. Members agreed that due to the current state of the deficit, not to relocate.
The start time of the Board Business Meeting scheduled Thursday, December 19, changed to 6 pm to allow the community ample opportunity to speak.
“My sincere desire is that everyone who is able to come to the table with concessions to significantly reduce the number of staff and most importantly the number of students impacted!” Dade said. ”I’m not moving on hopes or operating on what-ifs.”