District eyes closing budget gap

ROCHESTER — Superintendent Bolgen Vargas presented recommendations last month for closing a $50.2 million gap in budget projections for the Rochester City School District’s 2013-14 school year.

During a Dec. 13 school board meeting, Vargas outlined those recommendations, which included: staff attrition and retirement, contract adjustments and moving funds from general funds to special-aid funds. But, support for English-language learners, arts and physical education will continue, he said. The current year’s amended budget totaled $726.6 million.

"I believe we can balance our budget by funding our priorities and by bringing stability to the district," he said.

A 37 percent increase in retirement costs represents one of the main factors for the shortfall, he added. Additionally, the district faces uncertainty in revenues as it struggles to address the 48 percent graduation rate, reverse the pattern of students performance on state tests and improve schools on the state’s focus list, Vargas explained

"Students are our first priority in every decision concerning budget and allocation of resources," he said. "The changes we’re about to make are not because we want to or wish to but because we need to."

The board will offer several opportunities for parent and community input over the next two months, and more information is available at www.rcsdk12.org.

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