Shi, Sassouni retain spots on Great Neck Board of Education; public approves $241 million budget

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Great Neck Board of Education Trustees Rebecca Sassouni and Jeffrey Shi were both re-elected to the board on Tuesday night. (Photos courtesy of both candidates)

Incumbent Trustees Rebecca Sassouni and Jeffrey Shi were re-elected to the Great Neck Board of Education on Tuesday.

The district’s $241 million budget was also approved, with 3,709 people voting in favor of it, while 1,894 people voted against it.

The budget passed despite the uncertain status of state aid for every district. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said school districts across New York should brace for up to 20 percent cuts to their funding from the state.

All district elections were conducted with absentee ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sassouni, who received 4,071 votes, defeated challenger John Jahng, who received 1,131 votes. Shi ran unopposed and received 4,048 votes.

Sassouni and Shi were elected to the board for the first time in 2017. Shi defeated Nikolas Kron in the May 2017 election after candidates Grant Toch and Michael Golden dropped out. Sassouni won unopposed after her opponent, Ilya Aronovich, dropped out of the race.

The budget, adopted by the school board virtually via Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic, is $241,395,571 compared with the current year’s budget of $234,418,944, a rise of 2.98 percent.

John Powell, assistant superintendent of business and finance, said the proposed budget remained within the state-mandated tax cap.

“The 2 percent tax cap that everyone assumes to mean the real property tax levy cannot increase higher than 2 percent is not absolute,” he said. “Though a 2 percent cap is possible, each public school district’s tax limit will be different as a result of that district’s individual calculation.”

According to the budget, other tax cap calculation components permit the district to raise taxes by 4.16 percent for 2020-21.

The budget calls for a 2.57 percent, or $5,339,183, increase in real property tax. Powell said the district had the fifth-lowest tax rate per $100 of assessed value in Nassau County for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz said that though no decisions about a potential reduction of state aid have been made, the district’s diligence with its appropriated reserves and fund balance will mitigate any potential adverse effects.

“I’ve referred to the [appropriated reserves and fund balance] as a rainy-day fund sometimes,” Berkowitz said. “It allows us comfort with any unanticipated events like a tree falling through the roof of a school, or major leaks within a school. Things that we cannot anticipate to happen.”

Residents also approved the $9.74 million budget for the Great Neck Library, with 3,592 votes in favor and 1,788 votes opposed.

The budget calls for a decrease in spending of $65,500, or 0.61%, from the current operating budget of about $9.8 million. The property tax levy has been flat since fiscal year 2018, calling for just over $9.49 million in revenue, with the rest of the budget supported by payments in lieu of taxes and other resources.

 

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