Emmanuel Macron will spend nearly three days in Marseille where he is expected to present a plan to support France's second-largest city.
Mayor Benoit Payan, who replaced Michèle Rubirola 8 months after the 2020 municipal elections, has been calling urgently for more investment.
"The state [of the city's finances] is catastrophic. There is nothing left in the coffers. The right left us with empty coffers," Payan said in February following an audit of the city's accounts.
For 25 years, the southern city of 860,000 people was run by right-wing politician Jean-Claude Gaudin until a socialist-ecologist ticket took over in 2020.
Payan told French channel RMC/BFM-TV on Tuesday that he was "ashamed" when he saw the city's schools.
"The schools are in an unworthy state. There are schools where it rains, where there are rats, in infirmaries there is asbestos," Payan said. "I made the choice to go see the head of state."
"The abandonment of our city has resulted in dilapidated schools," deputy mayor Samia Ghali wrote in a social media post on Wednesday. She said that many in Marseille were waiting to hear what Macron would say.
Many right-wing politicians have criticised the security situation in the city, citing murders due to accounts settling and drug trafficking.
"The current [government] has not taken the measure of the insecurity in the country," said the EU's former Brexit negotiator and French presidential candidate Michel Barnier, who said it was not just pertinent in Marseille but in other cities in France.
A far-right National Rally party spokesman Philippe Ballard denounced Macron's visit as "comms" ahead of the next year's presidential election.
"Tens of billions of euros have been poured into [Marseille]. For what results?" Ballard said on BFM-TV.
"What is the point of renovating schools and opening bus lines if 50 metres from these schools or from the bus stop, you have a checkpoint manned by drug dealers?"
He appeared to be referring to a recent media report where young people manned a checkpoint to deal drugs outside public housing.
Following the report, French interior minister Gérard Darmanin said police carried out an anti-drugs operation in the area, resulting in four arrests and the seizure of drugs.
Ecologist candidate Sandrine Rousseau meanwhile said that conversation on insecurity in the city was "exaggerated".
"Yes, there is drug trafficking, that's why we have to change our drug policy," Rousseau told Europe 1.