Friday, 30 April 2010 00:00
The Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education adopted a $189,547,240 budget for the 2010-2011 school year. This represents a 2.16 increase over the current budget. It was the goal of the school board to limit the increase to as close to 2 percent as possible, while still maintaining the same level of education.
For this budget, $178,676,226 will have to be raised by real property tax, which accounts for 94.09 percent of the budget revenue, a 2.89 percent increase over the current budget. Only $6,752,849 is expected from state aid, which now only accounts for 3.57 percent of the budget. The rest of the budget revenue, 2.34 percent, is listed as “miscellaneous.”
Once again, for the 2010-2011 school year, the major portion of funding goes to teaching —- 73.81 percent for instruction. Capital projects account for .86 percent of the budget; buildings and grounds receives 10.93 percent; adult education and recreation receives a 1.86 percent of the allocation of funds; 4.44 percent goes for general support; 6.57 percent of the budget is for transportation; and 1.53 percent goes towards debt service.
Prior to the board’s vote to adopt the budget, Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz presented a chronology of budget events, starting with the board and administration addressing a proposed budget at the start of the school year. They had vowed to keep the increase as close to two percent as possible, which required cuts of between $5 million and $6 million. And at that point, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan approached all of the school building principals, seeking their input along the lines of budget cuts. Parents and staff were also included, with their input regarding cuts also a part of the process.
The board of education then met with various school district groups such as the GNTA (Great Neck Teachers Association).
The preliminary budget was presented to the public at the end of February. The first budget hearing was March 8, the second hearing on March 22. The Saturday line-by-line budget review was held on April 10. Adoption was unanimous at the April 20 board of education public action meeting.
Ms. Berkowitz noted that the new state commissioner of education has called these financially stressed times “dire,” with a “rare level of fiscal pain.” Ms. Berkowitz also emphasized that, even with tough cuts, once again 73 percent of the budget will go towards instruction. She said that they had worked diligently to keep necessary cuts “as far away from the classroom as possible.” Ms. Berkowitz also stated that “This is a very different time and we had to strike a balance.”
Board Trustee Susan Miner-Healy stressed how this budget process has been going on since the start of the school year. She described this process as a “tremendous effort,” and she thanked central and building administration. “This was an active process,” Ms. Miner-Healy said, adding, “We are happy to be where we are tonight.” She said that “we all share ownership of this budget.” Ms. Miner-Healy also said that the “programs held most dear are still here, even if in a different form.”
Echoing Ms. Miner-Healy, board Vice President Fran Langsner said that this has been “an ongoing effort … and it will not end this budget year.”
Board trustee Lawrence Gross noted that he is “pleased with this very carefully crafted budget,” a budget that is “responsive to the times.” He spoke of the “transparency” of the budget process, and the “quality” of the education that is provided for each individual student and that student’s needs. “The type of education we want to provide the children in Great Neck is totally maintained,” Mr. Gross said, adding that this is still a “fiscally prudent” budget.
A few items were adjusted since the last budget reading, according to John Powell, assistant superintendent for business, but he assured that the bottom line remained the same.