Manhasset schools project growth in fund balance amid budgetary challenges

Manhasset schools project growth in fund balance amid budgetary challenges
The Manhasset School District is projecting an increase in its fund balance at the end of the 2023-2024 school year. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Manhasset School District is projecting an ending 2023-2024 fund balance of $1,192,213 in unspent appropriations, which the district is considering using more of to help fund the next school year’s budget.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations Sam Gergis provided a report to the Board of Education Thursday night of the district’s 2023-2024 projected expenses, revenues and fund balance as of Jan. 31. He said this is the seventh-month mark of the school year that will inform projections for the remaining five months and aid in forecasting for the budget next year.

The district’s revenues amounted to $63,999,070 as of Jan. 31, with the total projected revenue coming to $108,948,384.

As of Jan. 31, the district spent and committed to spend $90,049,534. The remaining expenses for the year are estimated at $15,693,618, bringing the total expenses for the year to $106,643,152.

With a budgeted amount of $107,733,004, Gergis said the district is projecting $1,215,380 in additional revenues for the current school year. With increased budgeted expenses of $102,360, this would bring the projected fund balance to $1,192,213.

The district is producing a greater total expenditure and fund balance than the year prior which totaled $972,867.

Its five-year fund balance average comes out to $1,348,258, or about 1.4% of the average budget over the time frame, excluding the two school years impacted by the pandemic.

The unassigned fund balance is estimated to be $4,407,031 as of June 30.

While the fund balance shows growth for the district, the budget season has brought to light many financial pressures the district is facing.

Gergis said a conversation earlier this month revealed that the state is looking to take back excess amounts of state aid granted to the district, going as far back as 1920, which amounts to about $227,000. This would be taken out of the district’s current school year funds and Gergis said is reflected in his calculations.

He said the district is under $47,000 in its projected state aid, which includes all the aspects of aid.

“It does offset some of the gains in other categories, but again it is part of the overall computation for the revenue side of fund balance,” Gergis said.

The district’s state aid troubles are expected to continue next year as the governor proposes a drop of about $511,000 in total aid to Manhasset for the next school year.

Superintendent Gaurav Passi said that with a $511,000 drop in state aid, there are two ways to address the shortfall: reduce expenses in the diminished amount or allocate additional funds from the appropriated fund balance.

But the former is difficult due to uncontrollable budget expenses and increases, Passi said, like health insurance and pension costs. He said this would then probably impact district programs.

The district’s total benefit expenses for 2023-2024 are projected to be $26,507,475, which is nearly double the total amount expended in the 2009-2010 school year for about an 85.7% increase.

“So there’s already tremendous pressure on next year’s budget,” Passi said.

For the latter proposal, about $724,000 is already projected to be spent on the next school year’s budget from the appropriated fund balance on the budget. To offset the drop in state aid, this would bring the amount to $1,235,000.

“So it would be a significant chunk of the fund balance,” Passi said.

The district is fighting the state’s school aid proposal, holding out for it to be changed amid growing pushback by local officials as well. If its aid is restored, then the district’s budgetary pressures will diminish.

If the budget is passed in time by April 1, then the district can account for it in its budget proposal. If it is late, as it was last year, then the district may not have that information before adopting a budget,

The district will present its preliminary 2024-2025 budget on March 7 before adopting it on April 16. District residents will then vote on the budget on May 21.

In other news, Passi said he requested that Homeland Security and Nassau County Police conduct a security audit of the district’s schools, which he said they have done so by visiting all three of the district’s buildings. Once the report is finalized, Passi said it will be reviewed by the district’s safety team.

Preliminary findings shared by Passi show that the audit recommends the addition of an arm gate and more fencing at its secondary school security booth, as well as more signage, additional training for security personnel and ballards at Munsey Park Elementary School.

The district is also still in the midst of finding a new team name, as required by the state, Passi said

“Our objective is to select a team name that encapsulates Manhasset’s distinctive character, culture and traditions and history, and symbolizes our strive towards excellence while projecting a positive image for our schools,” Passi said.

Suggestions have been received by the community and a committee has been formed to review the submissions and develop a method of selecting a new team name.

Team mascot proposals include the Eagles, Hawks, Mariners, Mavericks, Mustangs, Ospreys, Tigers or no mascot.

On Thursday, Passi said a poll was opened for secondary students to vote on their preference for a new school team mascot. Students will rank their top three choices or provide write-in suggestions.

Once polling is done, the committee will then review the results and select a new mascot.

Passi said a new mascot is expected to be chosen by the spring.

The Manhasset Board of Education will convene again March 7 for its preliminary budget presentation.

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