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School Budget Within Cap

Great Neck Public Schools upcoming budget increases 4.85 percent

The Great Neck Public Schools upcoming budget is proposed at $209,442,904. The preliminary 2013-2014 budget has an increase of 4.85 percent, yet stays within the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap. A complicated state formula is used to guarantee the tax cap is achieved, even though the increase number appears to be higher. 

The proposed budget was presented at the March 11 Board of Education meeting. This was this budget’s first informal public hearing.

The current budget for the 2012-2013 school year is $199,747,904.

For the upcoming preliminary working budget, once again by far the largest percent of the budget, 74.37 percent, is devoted to instruction, almost identical numbers to the current budget. Buildings and grounds are next, with 10.24 percent of the budget devoted to this portion. Transportation accounts for 6.22 percent, general support is 5.35 percent, adult education and recreation is 1.69 percent, debt service is 1.24 percent, and capital projects accounts for .89 percent. All of these percentage numbers are basically the same as in the current budget. 

As for the budget’s revenue numbers, the bulk, 92 percent is to be raised by property tax, with 3 percent from state aid, 2.40 percent listed as miscellaneous and 2.60 percent from appropriated reserves. State aid was about 15 percent of the revenue over 30 years ago, was cut drastically and since then has continued to represent only a very small percent of revenue for the school district.

The budget process begins in September, at the school building level, and is developed by the superintendent and his staff. Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan said that this proposed budget “represents a quality education for our 6393 students.” Dr. Dolan said that, until this point, the district has been able to “protect” all of the district employees.

John Powell, assistant superintendent, business, said that for next year, it is anticipated that some jobs will have to be cut, but none are instructional positions. Mr. Powell said tat this upcoming budget was “one of the most difficult to compile,” in all of his years in creating such budgets. And he noted the financial difficulties, which include so many mandated expenditures (salaries, benefits, etc.) and “constraints.”

Board Trustee Lawrence Gross, head of the board’s financial committee, added that “there are a lot of difficult cuts to make.” And he promised that, as ever, this budget will be “transparent.” 

Board President Barbara Berkowitz reported that the Great Neck School District “one of very few to stay within the tax cap.”

Dr. Dolan said that he and the school board first look at “protecting the classroom.” He explained that instruction must be considered first and then they must look elsewhere for funds, such as charging for use of facilities instead of taking such expenses out of the instructional monies. 

Board discussions on the upcoming budget will continue in the coming months.