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Residents Approve 2012-13 School Budget

Phil Heckler, Brenda Judson elected to board of education

With 1,612 votes in favor and 834 opposed, the Hicksville community approved the school district’s 2012-13 budget in the amount of $120,631,633 on Tuesday, May 15. Residents also voted in support of a second proposition on the ballot, which approved $50,000 going toward the Hicksville Gregory Museum for its various educational programs and offerings.

New trustee-elects for the board of education are Phil Heckler (1,280 votes), who ran uncontested, and Brenda Judson (989), who defeated Maureen Lee (874). Heckler said he hopes to get more residents to board meetings and wants to propose the creation of committees to keep parents better informed.

“As a newly elected trustee of the Hicksville School Board of Education, I will work to bring change, beginning with the process of ‘governing’ that is used by the Hicksville Board of Education.

“Very few residents attend board meetings, in part I believe, because the formal setting is not conducive to a true give and take. I will propose a committee structure designed to get into the details of pressing issues and parents’ concerns such as: safety, class size, revenue, state mandates and aid,” Heckler said.

In line with the low turnouts at board meetings, fewer residents participated in the voting process this year, with 455 fewer votes cast on Tuesday compared to last year’s election. Heckler noted how keeping parents informed could potentially lead to more involvement.

“In future years, as reserves dwindle, it will become increasingly difficult for districts to stay within the cap; thus it is vital that more Hicksville residents have a detailed understanding of both the revenue and spending sides of their school budgets to help ensure the quality of our children’s education,” Heckler explained.

Heckler, a 37-year resident and past president of the Gregory Museum, described his proposals for state aid, other revenue and compensation:

“State aid: An action-oriented committee could make regular contact with and influence our elected state representatives, regarding unfunded mandates and state aid. Perhaps the volunteers could help organize a letter writing campaign or outreach efforts to civic associations to influence our state legislators.

“Other revenue: Commercial properties account for almost 50 percent of Hicksville School District revenue, helping to dampen our property tax burden. What can the school board do to help? We can help establish partnerships with local businesses to help sustain them, improve the educational experience of our children and further help keep down our property tax.

“Compensation: This committee could be asked to evaluate district compensation in light of all the recent headlines and the 2 percent tax cap that could otherwise impact the quality of education of our children. Are we competitive with other districts? Are salaries in-line with other professions?”

State aid, according to the district’s budget presentation, is down 17 percent from the 2008-09 school year, a loss of $2.7 million. The district has a multi-year plan in place to offset the loss in aid through the use of reserves over the next few years. Heckler believes creating committees will help residents and parents understand how the district is addressing these challenges.

“The committees will probably add other questions and concerns if the board can raise the level of interest and awareness in our school district. We owe it to our children’s future, which is founded on a quality education,” Heckler said.