Herricks school board ballot, budget vote set

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Herricks school district voters will cast ballots next Tuesday to replace the school board’s longest-serving sitting trustee.

Henry Zanetti of Williston Park is the unopposed candidate on the May 16 ballot to replace Christine Turner, the board’s vice president, who is leaving in July at the end of her 27th year on the board.

Joining Zanetti on the ballot is Trustee James Gounaris of Manhasset Hills, who is running unopposed for a third three-year term.

Turner, a 66-year-old Albertson resident, had considered stepping away earlier, but she feels better leaving the board now, when its members are more experienced and the district is in a strong position, she said in a recent interview.

“It’s tough when you’re working and doing this, and I just think I’m getting to the point where now I need a little time for myself,” Turner, who is the director of a Lutheran preschool in Garden City, said in an interview last month.

Turner encouraged Zanetti, a retired U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent who is a fixture at school board meetings, to run when she decided to step away, she has said.

He and the four other trustees will oversee $29.5 million worth of construction projects over the next several years, for which voters approved a $25 million bond in December.

Zanetti has said he also wants to focus on the formula for how state education funding is distributed to protect Herricks’ residential taxpayers, who shoulder most of the property tax burden because the district has little commercial property.

While state aid only funds about 10 percent of Herricks’ budget, “[t]here’s not too many other places where you can increase your revenue, so state aid is actually pretty important,” Zanetti said in an interview last month.

Gounaris, 53, said he is proud of helping to lead the board through big staff changes in recent years. Two top administrators, including Superintendent Fino Celano, took over in 2015, and the district hired Lisa Rutkoske, the assistant superintendent for business, last year.

The district has also made great strides in recent years in “really creating a new forward-thinking ethic” with its curriculum, as evidenced by its language immersion program and Project Lead the Way, an engineering curriculum, said Gounaris, who owns a company that operates corporate cafeterias.

“We are progressive when it comes to new educational techniques and new management techniques,” Gounaris, who served as the school board president from 2013 to 2015, said in an interview last month.

Residents will also vote on the district’s $111.2 million budget for the 2017-18 school year. The budget would increase revenue from property taxes by 1.62 percent, the maximum allowed this year under the state’s tax cap law.

Polls for the school board election and budget vote will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at the Herricks Community Center, located at 999 Herricks Road in New Hyde Park.

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