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Rochester school board - the highest paid in NY - eyes a pay cut 

At a time when most school districts and municipalities are preparing for significantly less state aid due to New York State’s budget crisis, the members of the Rochester Board of Education may be taking a pay cut.

The board members, who are by far the highest paid commissioners of any school board in the state, will discuss the possibility of reducing their own salaries when they meet Tuesday.

Over the summer, as Rochester City School District officials wrestled with closing a massive budget gap, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said all departments should plan to reduce their budgets by 20 percent. That means cutting more than $286,926 from the Board of Education’s $1.4 million budget. The entire district budget is $927.6 million.

Board Commissioner Amy Maloy during a meeting Thursday suggested publicly what she has said to board members privately in recent months — the cuts should start with board members’ salaries.

“I think we should be looking at our own salaries as commissioners,” Maloy said. “Although that won’t add up to much, I think the gesture would be important.”

Most Rochester Board of Education commissioners make about $26,000 a year, while the board president, Van White, is paid about $34,000, according to SeeThroughNY.org, a website run by the conservative think tank The Empire Center.

Contrast that with other big school districts in the state.  Board members in Buffalo are paid $5,000 apiece. In Syracuse, the salary for board members is $7,500. The school board in Yonkers voted in 2017 to pay its president a retroactive $15,000 stipend. In New York City, board members were stripped of their $15,000 pay when public schools fell under mayoral control in 2002.

The vast majority of school boards around the state and nation do not pay their members. 

Some Rochester commissioners supported the notion of cutting their pay on Thursday, but other members wanted more time to think about it. White said he was leaning toward supporting Maloy’s proposal but agreed that voting on the measure should wait.

“I think people are entitled to have, in any deliberative body, the opportunity to review it, and see what the numbers are and maybe vote on it next week,” said White.

White also outlined a number of other cuts to the Board of Education’s budget, including replacing internal claims adjusters with outside auditors.

Commissioner Beatriz Lebron called White’s cuts misleading, saying they reflected cuts from previous cycles. She said those claims adjusters were already replaced.

“I wanted to again reiterate that presenting a budget with cuts that have been already made, at the end of the last budget cycle is not a true reflection of cuts for a budget that is going to start July 1, 2021,” Lebron said. “If we are serious about making cuts, and as board members, are being conscious about keeping those cuts as minimal as possible in schools, then we should be serious about real cuts in our budget.”

White disagreed, saying these cuts are real.

“It has been confirmed by staff, including our prior clerk, that this money was set aside for the 2020-21 budget,” White said. “Our decision would be to reduce that amount for the year that we’re presently in.”

The board agreed to White’s proposal and tabled a decision on their own pay cuts until Tuesday.

James Brown is a reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.
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