Rochester City Council convened for a special meeting Monday afternoon to address the financial crisis within the Rochester City School District.
During the meeting, the council passed a resolution endorsing emergency action that would allow the state to stabilize and control the finances of the city school district. Many of the council members speaking at the meeting agreed that change needs to happen.
Recently, it was reported that the RCSD is facing a $30 million budget shortfall. City officials are concerned that will impact Rochester's bond rating because the money for the school district comes from the city.
"The mismanagement of tax dollars cannot continue, especially when we're risking the future and education of our youngest and most vulnerable residents," said Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott.
Scott said the city was notified on September 26 that the credit rating for the City of Rochester may take a hit over the financial troubles of the city school district.
“As the entity that’s responsible for this city’s finances, that was extremely alarming for us and we knew that immediate action was necessary,” Scott said.
The city is requesting the New York State Legislature, the State Department of Education or any entity designated by the governor, immediately establish financial control over the school district.
"I am concerned about this notion of the narrative that assigns the city's bond rating problem to the district,” said RCSD Board of Education Commissioner Willa Powell. “I don't believe those two should be intersecting at all."
The vote on the resolution was 8-0-1. Councilmember Harris did not vote because she is employed by the school district.
City officials understand the request for state takeover could be a long process. If the takeover doesn’t happen, they are not sure what would happen next.
Scott said the issue with the school district is not a onetime thing, but “is sustained and it’s reflected of an ongoing pattern of mismanagement.”
If the states refuse to take over financial control of the school district, city attorneys said they are not sure what the next step would be.
“I don’t think we’re asking for a favor. I think it’s important for the state to come and accept that it has responsibility for education of the children of the City of Rochester, as well as all the other cities in the state of New York,” said City Attorney Timothy Curtin. “But, believe me, we will not give up. This is something that the administration and city council decided as a responsibility to of a number of people often than the school district.”