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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Fiscal Mistreatment of RCSD

The Rochester City School District is in dire financial straits.  There is no disputing that.  Who is responsible for this mess and what should be done about it?  Well, that’s where there are some discrepancies.  In this article, we’re not going to focus on individuals.  Instead we’re going to try to tackle explaining the systemic issues that have put RCSD in this situation.  Our goal is to fuel discussion and spark action.
In New York State, school districts get money from a number of government entities.  Money from the State, grant money from the Federal government, and school and property tax from local municipalities.  Individual school districts can act to raise or lower local school taxes EXCEPT the “Big 5” districts.  Is Rochester one of the Big 5?  Of course we are.  Rochester gets local money by state law, but how much is at the discretion of the City of Rochester.  More on that later.
The largest chunk of state money districts receive is from what is called “Foundation Aid”. 
Foundation Aid, first enacted in 2007-08, is the largest unrestricted aid category supporting public school district expenditures in New York State. This year [2018-19] it represents approximately 67.3 percent of the total State Aid received by districts statewide. Foundation Aid has four main components:
1. A State-specified expenditure per pupil, called the Adjusted Foundation Amount, to which the State and school districts will contribute.
2. A State-specified Expected Minimum Local Contribution per pupil (based on a computed tax rate or local share formula) representing each district’s contribution to the Adjusted Foundation Amount per pupil.
3. The number of Selected Total Aid Foundation Pupil Units (TAFPU) in the district.
4. A calculation of Foundation Aid Payable, which adjusts Total Foundation Aid based on phase-in factors and minimum and maximum aid increases.
Complicated, right?  It is.  If you go to the link above you’ll see more details that confirms just how convoluted this is.  And if it’s not confusing enough for you, feel free to head over to the New York State Education Department’s State Aid Office webpage.  There you can read the Governor’s proposed changes to Foundation Aid for the 2020-21 budget.

The problem here is, the State has been underfunding the majority of school districts in New York.  Including RCSD.  That is money we should have been getting for years.  In fact, in 2006 a lawsuit was won against the State to get the money that is owed and the State has responded by ignoring the judge’s ruling.
The Alliance for Quality Education has explained all of this pretty well.  You can read about it here.  From their website, you can also see more specifics, like how much New York State owes the Rochester City School District (as well as most districts in Monroe County).  RCSD is owed $86,145,094.  Eighty-six million dollars.  We shouldn’t be asking the State for “spin up” money from future budgets, we should be demanding the money that is owed to us to make sure staff are not fired and our children are not thrown into further chaos.
But that’s not all.  The City of Rochester has some institutional responsibility for this mess as well.  As mentioned before, RCSD cannot raise its own funds; they are reliant upon the City of Rochester for a specific amount of money each year.  Legally, the City is not allowed to give less than it did the year before unless there are special circumstances.  With that, let’s take a look at how much the City of Rochester has given the Rochester City School District.

Budget Year Estimated City Revenue* Contribution to RSCD Change RCSD Charter School Expenses Change
2000-2001 $338,234,400 $127,300,000 N/A N/A N/A
2001-2002 $349,771,700 $127,300,000 0 $14,300,000 N/A
2002-2003 $348,796,300 $126,000,000 -1,300,000 $17,726,923 3,426,923
2003-2004 $357,943,800 $126,000,000 0 $17,998,567 0,271,644
2004-2005 $387,068,000 $119,100,000 -6,900,000 $19,272,690 1,274,123
2005-2006 $403,423,800 $119,100,000 0 $6,772,423 -12,500,267
2006-2007 $424,489,000 $119,100,000 0 $7,853,333 1,080,910
2007-2008 $441,890,000 $119,100,000 0 $9,294,881 1,441,548
2008-2009 $478,107,100 $119,100,000 0 $13,240,159 3,945,278
2009-2010 $452,153,500 $119,100,000 0 $15,477,032 2,236,873
2010-2011 $465,373,300 $119,100,000 0 $16,542,958 1,065,926
2011-2012 $467,096,100 $119,100,000 0 $28,294,665 11,751,707
2012-2013 $488,545,600 $119,100,000 0 $33,003,259 4,708,594
2013-2014 $481,695,300 $119,100,000 0 $40,147,113 7,143,854
2014-2015 $499,950,200 $119,100,000 0 $51,807,658 11,660,545
2015-2016 $501,602,300 $119,100,000 0 $61,898,200 10,090,542
2016-2017 $516,969,100 $119,100,000 0 $70,821,000 8,922,800
2017-2018 $525,604,100 $119,100,000 0 $77,538,000 6,717,000
2018-2019 $539,646,900 $119,100,000 0 $79,563,000 2,025,000
2019-2020 $552,047,000 $119,100,000 0 $87,660,388 8,097,388

*We used the estimated revenue & charter school amounts because that is what the City had to work with when making its decisions.
**All numbers taken directly from the City of Rochester’s website.

From this we can conclude the following:
*In the current budget year, the City of Rochester brings in $165,000,000 more in revenue than it did in 2000-2001, but...

*The annual amount the City of Rochester gives to the district has been reduced twice. Since 2005-2006 (15 years), the amount the City of Rochester gives to RCSD has stayed the same. It has not been increased once in this century.

*With the exception of one budget year (2005-2006), the amount RCSD has had to pay from its budget for charter schools has increased every year.

*RCSD pays over $73 million more now than it did at the beginning of the century though it receives more than $8 million less from the City now than it did at that time.

Looking at these two scenarios, we conclude that while there are definitely issues within the Rochester City School District, and these should be addressed, the fiscal mistreatment of our district by both the State of New York and the City of Rochester should be taken into account. Whatever remedies taken should not hurt the children and staff of RCSD. Not only should there not be any more layoffs, but the staff who have been let go should be immediately re-hired. The money is obviously available. But those who control the purse strings are not going to rectify this without pressure from the bottom up.

Hear us RORE.


rb said...

I will never understand why tax payers are expected to pay for private charter schools.

Unknown said...

Charter schools in rochester are in the public sphere.

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