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Vargas warns board of $33 million to $46 million budget gap 

In a preview of his proposed budget for the 2014-2015 school year, Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas told board members last night that the district faces a $33.2 million budget gap. But that figure doesn’t include fully funding some of what Vargas called academic priorities, such as increasing reading support to meet third grade proficiency levels, expanded learning in two dozen city schools, and increasing extracurricular activities such as music, arts, and sports.

Doing so could add another $12 million to the gap, increasing it to roughly $46 million, Vargas said, unless cuts are made somewhere else in the budget.
click to enlarge Rochester Superintendent Bolgen Vargas - FILE PHOTO.
  • File photo.
  • Rochester Superintendent Bolgen Vargas

Vargas used the current fiscal year’s budget, which was initially approved at $732 million, as a template. The budget was eventually amended to a total of $762 million. The district received the bulk of its funding – nearly $479 million from the state and anticipates about a 3.2 percent increase over last year. 

Vargas described a mix of financial problems that could hit the district particularly hard in the coming school year unless dramatic steps are taken. All of the district’s major expenses are going up, he said, as enrollment is going down. Health insurance, salaries, and retirement have increased. And Vargas cited the increase in charter schools as another significant cost to the district.

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