Supt. Pekel answers community questions on RPS tech referendum

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(ABC 6 News) – On the ballot in November is the Rochester Public Schools technology referendum.

If passed, the district will see $10.1 million in local funding annually over the next ten years. This money will primarily go toward cybersecurity, software and hardware investments, and keeping class sizes the same.

The Rochester Public Library hosted an informational session Wednesday night to answer questions from the community and explain in detail how this money will be used.

Abdi Roble is a parent and Equity Specialist with the district who supports the referendum and hopes taxpayers will vote in favor.

“Even if I don’t have kids in the district or the school system, I have to contribute cause it’s our future,” said Roble. “It’s an investment for our future city, the schools, teachers and kids.”

While he and other district employees voiced support for the referendum, not everyone at the meeting was convinced it is a good investment.

Barry Skolnick has heard arguments from both sides and says he wishes the meeting had more debate.

“When people are not that well informed I’d rather have the full set of facts presented to both sides, so people can act intelligently instead of just whimsy acting on the first person they see on stage,” said Skolnick.

One of these concerns of the opposition is the district isn’t properly cutting the budget where it needs to.

Superintendent Kent Pekel says this referendum will prevent the district from having to cut another $10 million from the budget after it already made $21 million in cuts over the last two years.

Skolnick questioned Pekel on whether more referendums may be presented to voters in the future.

“I’ve seen referendums being proposed before in the school district. It’s always presented very ably by the school superintendents as the greatest thing since Swiss cheese and I’m never sure how true that is,” said Skolnick.

Pekel answered there is no plan for another referendum in the next five years, but he won’t promise it won’t happen. After COVID, they’ve learned it’s always possible unexpected situations may arise.

A full recording of the information session will be posted on the Rochester Public Library’s YouTube page.

Early voting is open now until Election Day on November 7.