New York state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has agreed to audit the finances of the Rochester City School District in light of a looming deficit.
Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D-138) said the audit will begin “soon.”
"State Comptroller DiNapoli will examine the finances of the Rochester City School District. His auditors are in the process of scheduling an audit with district officials that will identify the cause of the apparent 2018-19 year-end budget shortfall,” according to a statement from the comptroller’s office. “Given the serious nature of this matter, auditors will be redirected from other projects and will begin this work in early October. During the course of the audit, which will take several months to complete, the office will not comment on specifics until the audit is complete."
Calls for DiNapoli to get involved began with Bronson and Sen. Rich Funke (R-55 District) Monday.
The RCSD reported a $50 million deficit during its year-end audit for the 2018-2019 school year, prompting waves of concerns from local and state officials.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday 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.
In the letter to the governor, Warren urged his office to sever the connection between the city and the school district, and empower it as a distinct entity.
"Now, I've been told that this has been identified or had been identified months ago by some of their financial people and when you go on the call with the bond market and you say, ‘Everything is fine, our cash flow is good, everything looks good,’ and it isn’t, that becomes a material misrepresentation to the bond market,” Warren said.
The Rochester City Council wants the district’s finance department and school board finance committee to appear before council about the deficit.
“The governor is committed to looking into all available options based on the will of the people of Rochester. The first priorities in ensuring the needs of students are being met," according to a statement from Gov. Cuomo’s office.
The comptroller’s office says it is currently in the process of scheduling an audit with school district officials that will identify the cause of the apparent budget shortfall.
"(DiNapoli) looked into it and yes, indeed his team would be coming in. He indicated he had to pull a team together and, as his statement indicated, he pulled people from other audits that aren’t as timely because he needed to get this done as quickly as possible, so he needed to start as soon as possible," Bronson said.
The comptroller's audit is expected to take several months to complete and could begin as early as next week.