Herricks budget, school board candidates make grade

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Herricks school district voters on Tuesday re-elected a school board trustee, elected another for the first time and approved a $111.2 million budget for the next school year.

Trustee James Gounaris won a third term unopposed with 1,008 votes, and Henry Zanetti was elected with 981 votes to replace Christine Turner, the outgoing vice president, after 27 years on the board.

And voters approved the 2017-18 budget by a margin of 1,070 votes to 352.

The budget will increase revenue from property taxes by 1.62 percent, the maximum allowed this year under the state’s tax cap law.

“We didn’t go shoot for a lot of different expensive things and that sort of stuff,” Gounaris said.
“We just wanted to hold the line and do what we need to do to preserve what we’re doing here in the district.”

Gounaris, of Manhasset Hills, and Zanetti, of Williston Park, will be sworn in for their three-year terms in July as the district gears up for the start of $29.5 million worth of capital projects this summer. Voters approved most of the spending for the work in December.

Zanetti has said he wants to help an already successful board find ways to make the district more efficient and play an active role in resolving issues in the formula for distributing state education aid.

Zanetti attended nearly every school board meeting before his election. He said he is looking forward to getting comfortable on the other side of the table.

“I’ll have to be a little more careful about what I say, because sometimes in the audience you can crack a joke or two,” Zanetti said Wednesday.

Maintaining all programs while abiding by the state tax cap will be one of the district’s ongoing challenges in the coming years, Zanetti said.

The district will also be renegotiating contracts with its labor unions in the next three years, which Gounaris has said will be another significant challenge.

The board will name a new vice president in July following Turner’s departure at the end of June.

Gounaris, who served as school board president from 2013 to 2015, said he would be happy to serve in that role if the board asks him to.

“We are five equals and it’s not always about a label or a title,” he said. “It’s really about the work the five of us equally share and do.”

Zanetti said he will most likely “just rather get my feet wet” when he takes office, but would consider the vice president’s post.

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