The Rochester City School District is under attack from all sides after reporting a multimillion dollar deficit and having no apparent answers for why it exists.
Hours after the RCSD reported a $50 million deficit without an explanation, the school district is now up against it from nearly every level of local government.
The latest comes from Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren who sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking the state government to allow the city to sever financial ties with the school district.
"As the District’s financial backstop, the City of Rochester and our taxpayers are gravely concerned about the state of the district and the potential consequences to not only our children, but also the City’s fiscal health,” Warren said in a statement.
Mayor Warren also wrote in the letter that she was concerned about the city's ability to complete critical infrastructure projects, like ROC the Riverway, if the district's budget deficit leads to fiscal consequences for the city.
This is the mayor's latest effort to create change in school district leadership she doesn't believe in. Her last attempt to make that change, a referendum approved by the Rochester City Council to let voters express back, or support a state takeover, was stopped in court.
Warren does not believe it’s right that the city delivers $119 million to the school district each year without having input on how it's spent.
Warren is not the only leader responding to the city school district's budget shortfall.
The City Council wants the district's finance department and school board finance committee to appear before council about the deficit.
“Well, in my years at the state level and now at the federal level, I’ve never seen anything quite as shocking, this has the potential to be up to 5 percent of the total budget of the city school district,” said Rep. Joe Morelle, (D-25 District).
Morelle said the shortfall shows the lack of accountability within the district and damages the educational environment for thousands of children.
Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D-138 District) and Sen. Rich Funke (R-55 District) chimed in Monday also calling on Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to audit and investigate the situation.
“Protecting taxpayers and ensuring our children receive a quality education remains a top priority for me,” Bronson said in a statement. “An independent investigation will provide the answers that will allow the district to function for the benefit of our children and our community.”
"I am also preparing legislation for introduction. My bill would impose a state fiscal monitor on RCSD with final approval on any and all financial decisions," Funke said in a statement.
The district said staff is working around the clock looking into the issue that first came to light last week by an internal auditor.