Responding to the country's current economic crisis, the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education proposed a low 2.44 percent budget increase at the first budget hearing for the 2009-2010 school year. At the March 3 public action meeting, the school board proposed a preliminary working budget of $185,543,564, for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.
Board of Education Trustee Lawrence Gross, a member of the board's finance committee, explained that the budget process begins in the schools in September and comes to the board by February. Board President Barbara Berkowitz noted that the budget process started "earlier than ever this year ... in light of what's going on." She emphasized that "so much care" is put in to this budget process. Mr. Gross added that " lot of work and effort have gone in to this (the budget)." And he made a point of noting the increase in the percentage of funds going to instruction (the actual education programs).
Mr. Gross continued, discussing the school board's "deep concern" with "a lot of terrible things going on." Great concerns about residents and their financial issues were all taken into careful consideration in preparing this budget, Mr. Gross said. "This was all recognized in the budget," he stated.
However, even with all of the current financial issues, Mr. Gross assured that, even though they are reducing the number of construction projects, the district will continue to maintain their buildings.
Very importantly, Mr. Gross firmly stressed that the goal of the administration and the schools is "to provide the quality of education, and scope and variety of education here in Great Neck ... they did it even in these economic times."
Mr. Gross stated: "This is a very responsible budget ... and we ask for your support."
Ms. Berkowitz then reemphasized the "care" that went in to preparing this upcoming issue in the midst of such tough economic times. She reassured that the school board, and the school district, "does not want to impact on class size and programs."
Board Vice President Fran Langsner noted the tremendous drop in state aid, the problem that has impacted the schools since 1990, putting a tremendous burden on taxpayers.
For this proposed $185,543,564 budget, $174,667,405 will have to be raised by real property tax, a 3.71 percent increase over the current budget. This translates to 94.14 percent of the budget. Only $6,791,258 is expected from state aid, a total of only 3.66 percent of the budget. The rest of the budget revenue, 2.20 percent, is listed as "miscellaneous."
Once again, for the 2009-2010 school year, the major portion of funding goes to teaching --- 73.90 percent for instruction. Capital projects account for .77 percent of the budget; buildings and grounds receives 10.94 percent; adult education and recreation receives a 1.99 percent of the allocation of funds; 4.23 percent would go for general support; 6.61 percent of the budget would be for transportation; and 1.56 percent would go towards debt service.
The next informal budget hearing is Monday, March 16, Great Neck South High School. There will be student recognition at 8 p.m., immediately followed by the school board's public action meeting.