This has been the quietest budget season in recent memory for the Rochester school district. There’s been no talk about cutting teachers, but there are some worries.
Superintendent Bolgen Vargas is banking on Governor Cuomo’s “pension smoothing” proposal to help reduce the district’s $52 million budget gap for the 2013 to 2014 school year. He’s been counting on it to shave about $16 million to $20 million off the gap.
Cuomo proposed a deal that would allow municipal governments and school districts rocked by rapidly rising pension costs to pay a lower, flat rate of contributions over the next 25 years. The entities would get to cash in on their expected savings from the revisions Cuomo made to the pension plan last year.
Vargas was supposed to make a final budget presentation tonight to board members, but the meeting was cancelled until the governor and the legislature reached a budget deal.
That seems to have occurred and the budget smoothing piece is included, but there is still some opposition to the idea. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has to sign off on the deal because he oversees the pension system, and he’s been skeptical about the proposal.
Where does this leave Vargas? Even with the pension smoothing, he'd have to make up for a remaining $30 million hole. He’s also on record saying he will not cut music, arts, and physical education teachers.
And where will this leave his special programs like expanded learning, not to mention some of the proposals board members want to see?
He may be betting that attrition from the current staff will solve the problem.
Vargas will be making his final budget presentation to the board on Monday, March 25, and there will be a public forum on the budget on Tuesday, March 26. Both meetings will be held at the district’s central office, 131 West Broad Street, at 5:30 p.m.