Herricks residents to vote on budget

Residents of the Herricks School District will head to the polls to cast ballots on Tuesday, May 21 voting on a school budget and a school board seat being sought by Denton Avenue PTA president Juleigh Chin in an uncontested race.

The proposed $104.62 million budget for 2013-14, represents a 3.2 increase over the current $102.27 million budget and calls for a tax levy increase of 3.16 percent to $92.24 million. 

Under the budget, 14 teaching positions would be eliminated from the elementary and secondary schools as part of the school board’s effort to keep the district under the state-mandated tax cap. This would mark the third straight year the board has made staff cuts. The district had eliminated 49 teaching positions in the past two years.

“I think overall we appreciated everybody’s input to the budget process. We tried to make it as fair as possible for everybody,” Herricks school board Trustee Brian Hassan said when the board approved the proposed budget in late March.

Board members restored $478,968 in programs that district administrators originally recommended be cut as part of more than $3 million in cost savings. The budget items restored by the board include approximately $170,000 for a mathematics coordinator, $132,000 for a Gemini teacher and program supplies, $125,000 for one elementary school teacher, $18,698 for the school clubs, approximately $10,000 for the high school fall drama and $10,000 for a Philadelphia day trip for seventh graders replacing an annual Boston trip.

“If we have to remove anything, it hurts us as well because we put them there in the first place,” board President Christine Turner said at an early March board meeting when parents, and high school and middle school students made appeals to restore some of the proposed cuts.

An overall $650,000 year-to-year increase in state aid to $8,636,411 enabled the Herricks board to restore those cuts along with $50,000 in so-called “bullet aid” secured through state Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck). The state aid increase enabled the board to maintain the district’s Gemini program for gifted elementary school students and the Spanish immersion program for grade schoolers at the Denton Avenue School. Three teaching positions were ultimately restored to the 2013-14 budget after district administrators had originally recommended cutting 17 teaching jobs.

The 2013-14 budget includes $60.3 million for instructional services, which includes teacher salaries, $10.75 million for general support services; $3.35 million for student transportation services; $506,197 for community services and $29.47 million for undistributed expenses, including debt service, and health insurance and employee pension costs, according to Herricks Assistant Superintendent of Business Helen Costigan.

The largest single category for cost increases is employee health coverage and pension costs, Costigan said.

The Herricks school budget passed easily last year with 1,661 voters in favor and 949 opposed. The 2012-13 budget of $101.27 million budget represented a 2.29 percent year-to-year increase with a tax levy increase of 2.88 percent. 

This year Herricks district residents will also be voting to fill a school board seat being vacated by Dr. Sanjay Jain, a six-year veteran of the board who opted to not seek re-election for a third term. 

Chin is running unopposed for that position. Chin, who has two children attending district schools, has been involved in the Herricks PTA since 2007 and also served two years as vice president of the Herricks Council of PTAs.

She is chairperson of the Herricks Korean Community and a founding member of the Korean Parents Association of Long Island.

Chin said she decided to run after learning that Jain was stepping down from the board and has said she welcomes the challenge of serving on the board.

“It’s difficult, but I’m hoping we have nowhere to go but up. I’m optimistic about the future and being a part of that upswing,” Chin said.

The Herricks School District currently has 3,900 students enrolled and spends an average of $22,241 per student. The district has 294 teachers with an average salary of $125,000.

Voting in the Herricks district election will take place on May 21 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the gymnasium at the Herricks Community Center at 99 Herricks Road.

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Richard Tedesco

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