Manhasset schools in ‘good financial status’ with recent audit

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Manhasset High School senior Gabriel Cohen, left, shakes hands with board of education President Regina Rule, right, for his National Hispanic Recognition Program honor. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

Manhasset school trustees were given good news on the budget Monday night and honored 32 students for academic achievement.

Reviewing the 2016-17 audited financial statements, Rosemary Johnson, deputy superintendent of business and finance, said the district has come a long way since trustees imposed a tax cap during the 2009-10 school year, bringing the year-to-year general fund increase from 0.87 percent in 2009-10 to 9.57 percent for the last school year.

“To hang around 8 percent, despite using the capital reserve, that’s stability,” Johnson said. “You’re keeping at least level while you’re using that money.”

Johnson said the 2016-17 budget was set for $91.4 million, but the district’s revenue during the year was slightly higher at $92.026 million.

One fund seeing annual increases is the school lunch fund. Johnson said the fund, which received $1.4 million in revenue last school year, was bringing in about $600,000 a few years prior.

“The food service program has become enormously successful,” Johnson said. “We have great participation, and it is reflected here.”

Johnson said all monies in the school lunch fund must be spent on the program, including equipment upgrades and cafeteria remodels. Some of the funds have been spent on a new serving line at Munsey Park School for $188,000 and will be spent to expand the grab-and-go area and renovating the faculty serving line in the secondary school cafeteria and replacing the Shelter Rock School serving line next summer.

Johnson said one of the largest liabilities on the books for the district is because of regulations mandating the district’s post-employment benefit obligations.

Johnson said that line item increased $7.1 million last school year to $59.5 million. Johnson said the line item can change annually based on the number of retirees covered, the rate of increase in health insurance costs, discount rates and more.

“The problem with this liability and the reason I wish it was simply a disclosure item, just like I wish the pensions were a disclosure item, there is no legal mechanism in New York state for funding this liability,” Johnson said. “It is paid on what they call pay-as-you-go method. If you can’t match assets to the liability or have any means of actually paying it off it really, in my view, does not belong here.”

During Monday’s board meeting, 32 members of the class of 2018 were honored for their achievements through the National Merit Scholarship Program and the National Hispanic Recognition Program.

“The purpose of school is to give every child a pathway,” Superintendent Vincent Butera said. “For some students it’s the athletic route, and for other students, it’s the arts route or the activities route, but fundamentally as its core, we’re an academic institution that really focuses on the academic development of kids as well as the social and emotional development. Any time we have the chance to honor the accomplishments of kids across the spectrum, we take great pride in that.”

Jane Grappone, the director of school counseling, said 32 students were named in three categories, the largest number in the school’s history.

The high school boasts 18 National Merit Commended students out of the 34,000 honored from the 1.6 million tested in 2016. Grappone said to quality, students needed a combined selection index score of 211 out of a possible 240 on the Preliminary SAT.

“That’s really high because the selection index for commended students had historically been around 200, so the bar has jumped up a bit,” Grappone said.

Manhasset’s National Merit Commended students are Katie Barnes, Philip Chang, Fred Chu, Cindy Du, Daniel Gold, Elin Hu, Andrew Juang, Stephen Lee, David Liu, Alex Maleno, Alexander Mazer, Daniel McNeary, Daniel Miller, Ryan Thorpe, Emily Tsoumpas, Ryan Watson, Christopher Yun and Vanessa Zhang.

Grappone said the senior class also had 11 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists out of the 15,000 qualifiers. Semifinalist status required at least a selection index score of 221.

Semifinalists include Andrew Batteria, Rachel Chang, Tiffeny Chen, Ryan Chung, Jiyoon Kim, Matthew Palmadessa, William Peng, Todd Qiu, Walter Stackler, Jeffrey Torborg and Susan Wu.

Semifinalists are the highest-scoring program entrants in each state and represent the top 0.5 percent of the state’s senior students.

To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, semifinalists must submit a detailed scholarship application, have an outstanding academic record, be recommended by a school official and earn high SAT scores.

Three students, Gabriel Cohen, Jared Gudino and Alexander Roth, were honored by the National Hispanic Recognition Program, founded in 1983 to identify outstanding Hispanic and Latino high school students. Grappone said approximately 2.5 percent of students in the New England area qualify for this honor.

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