The Great Neck Public Schools’ proposed budget went up to $228.3 million, school officials said Monday night, in hopes of addressing security concerns raised by parents at a budget meeting in early March.
Previously, the proposed budget called for $227.8 million in spending, or a 2.01 percent increase from its current $223.3 million budget. It had also called for a 2.47 percent tax levy increase from $198.56 million to $203.46 million.
Now the proposed spending plan increase is 2.24 percent, or $4.99 million higher than the active budget, with a projected tax levy increase of $5 million – or 2.52 percent, which is within the 2.85 percent tax cap limit.
The boost in the tax levy and budget also came with an unexpected increase in state aid, with the Great Neck schools likely to get $708,855 in state aid rather than the $317,967 originally projected.
The new budget proposal, if approved, would add one school psychologist, a social worker, special education teaching assistant, three contingency teacher positions and funding for new textbooks, supplies and materials pursuant to the Next Generation Science Standards implemented by New York.
Additionally, the budget would add five full-time security guards, replace security cameras at North and South High Schools, and a host of other capital improvements across the district.
“We don’t offer the minimum standard in Great Neck,” Teresa Prendergast, the superintendent of public schools, said on Monday.
School officials also highlighted a proposed security project worth about $1.54 million, which could be funded separately from the budget through the school district’s reserves and fund balance.
The proposal calls for double door locking at all school facilities, adding electronic locks on both sets of doors, creating an intercom buzzer system, installing bullet resistant film on doors and adjacent glass near main entrances and creating a place to drop off items.
Don Ashkenase, the vice president of the Great Neck Board of Education, said capital projects like this are “one time expenses” that don’t affect the tax rate. He also described this as a “sound investment” in boosting school security.
Vince Lentini, a Great Neck parent who engaged with the Board of Education, questioned the need for constant increases in the budget – particularly the now $5 million increase that put the property tax cap levy over $200 million.
“When does it end?” Lentini asked. “You can run a country with this budget.”
School officials stressed that the school has been fiscally responsible while offering quality programming, never breaching the state imposed tax cap since it was implemented in the 2012-13 school year.
They also noted a “conscious effort” to stay below 2 percent increases even before then.
Lentini questioned some line by line items, like how gas and oil costs could suddenly be $2 million when the line item was worth $747,343 in 2016-17.
John Powell, the assistant superintendent for business, said this in part was related to debt payments on an energy performance contract with Honeywell.
A school district property tax calculator will be available online in the coming weeks.
The next school board meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. in North Middle School, where school trustees will likely adopt the proposed budget. There will then be a discussion of the adopted budget on Monday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at South Middle School at 349 Lakeville Road.
Voters will decide on the budget on May 15, with voting taking place between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. at four polling sites: E.M. Baker Elementary School, Saddle Rock Elementary School, Lakeville School and South High School.
To find your polling place, visit https://nb.findmypollplace.com/greatneckufsd/default.aspx.