Gounaris challenged for Herricks ed board, Zanetti unopposed

Gounaris challenged for Herricks ed board, Zanetti unopposed
Herricks Board of Education President Jim Gounaris, left, Vice President Henry Zanetti, middle, and challenger Bhajan Ratra. (Photos courtesy of The Island 360 archvies)

Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Herricks Board of Education in the upcoming district elections in May.

Vice President Henry Zanetti is running unopposed for a third term on the board. President Jim Gounaris is being challenged by Bhajan Ratra.

Trustee terms are for three years.

Ratra previously ran for a spot on the board in 2020, losing to Zanetti, who had 72% of the total votes. Ratra is an adjunct professor of mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. At the time of his last campaign, he was a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examinations and has served in the past on the standards setting committee for the NYS Regents exams.

Gounaris, a Manhasset Hills resident, was president of the board from 2013 to 2015. He is currently serving his fourth term on the board as a trustee after winning re-election in 2020. He was appointed president last year, taking over for Zanetti. He currently works at Great Neck Public Schools as the director of food and nutrition services.

Zanetti, a Williston Park resident who served on the Herricks PTA for over a decade, was elected to the board in 2017. He is currently in his second term.

Also on the May 16 ballot will be the adopted budget for the upcoming fiscal year. 

The 2023-2024 budget includes a nearly $9.5 million increase in spending from the current budget, a 7.5% rise. Excluding pending claims and the associated legal fees, the budget represents only a 5.3% increase, Superintendent Tony Sinanis said during previous budget presentations.

The district is projected to increase the tax levy by 1.83%, which is equal to the tax cap determined by the state and falls below the 2% allowable growth factor limit. 

Assistant Business Superintendent Lisa Rutkoske explained during budget presentations the major drivers for the budget increase, where legal claims and settlements take up almost $2.8 million, or 30%, of the budget-to-budget increase.

Of the $9,404,489 increase from last year’s budget, health insurance accounts for $2,070,000, payroll represents $1,997,000, special education services is responsible for $863,000 and facilities and utilities take up $555,000.

The remaining expenditure increases include debt taking up $316,000, textbooks accounting for $239,000,  technology claiming $235,000 and all other costs adding up to  $338,000. 

Budget features include hiring assistant principals for Searingtown and Center Street Elementary Schools, funding for social-emotional learning programs, special education services, English as a New Language programs, new musical and athletic equipment and additional sports, such as varsity girls’ flag football, among other things. 

Additionally, the Herricks Public School District will be receiving state aid totaling $8 million more than was granted in the 2022-23 legislative budget. This is a 47% increase in state aid for the school district.

District voting will take place Tuesday, May 16, at the community center gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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