Great Neck school board adopts $229.84 million budget after finalizing vestibule proposal

Great Neck school board adopts $229.84 million budget after finalizing vestibule proposal
Superintendent of Schools Teresa Prendergast, along with Assistant Superintendent for Business John Powell, discuss the adopted 2018-19 budget with residents and administrators. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Great Neck Board of Education adopted a $229.84 million budget on Tuesday night after finalizing a capital proposal to use reserves and fund balance to harden vestibules throughout the district.

School officials moved to boost security at the Great Neck schools after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 killed 17 people, as well as considerable concern from parents over troubling social media posts.

John Powell, the assistant superintendent for business, said that while “the threat for all public schools” in the United States had always been there, the shooting heightened the sense of alert.

“That just raised the consciousness more after those 17 people were killed, so I think you’re going to see in many, if not all public school budgets, additional money for security,” Powell said on Tuesday morning.

This marks the second change in the school’s proposed budget, which was originally slated to be worth $227.8 million – or 2.01 percent higher than its current $223.3 million budget.

Officials then proposed increasing it to $228.3 million, or up 2.24 percent, before coming to the $229.84 million number – which is about 2.93 percent higher than the current budget.

The vestibule project would involve double door locking at all school facilities, adding more electronic locks, installing bullet resistant film on the doors and surrounding glass, and creating a drop-off space.

Powell said the operating budget for security will rise $380,000 from $2.02 million to $2.4 million to pay for five additional guards and an expected 15 percent price increase on the security contract in wake of the shooting.

Combined with the $1.54 million vestibule capital project, which Powell said is a one-shot expense paid for by reserves and does not affect the $203.57 million tax levy, the school will spend $3.94 million on security costs.

The tax levy increase will remain at 2.52 percent, slightly higher than the original 2.47 percent proposed, which translates to a roughly $5 million increase from the current $198.56 million to $203.57 million.

School district residents can estimate how much they will pay in property taxes via an online calculator that can be found at

The district also benefited from an unexpected increase in state aid, with the schools likely to receive a $708,855 boost in state aid rather than the originally projected $317,967, which Powell said will help cover a new social worker and the rising security costs.

In total, this means the school’s state aid, currently worth about $8.9 million, will rise to $9.6 million after originally being projected to be worth $9.21 million.

Additionally, according to a budget presentation, the school will add three contingency teacher positions, funding for supplies and development training related to new state science standards and technology upgrades. It will also maintain extracurricular and academic programs.

Powell said that while the budget increase is one of the larger ones the schools have seen, he believes it’s “reasonable” as it addresses school safety while maintaining programming.

“I think it meets the needs of the community and maintains the highly regarded program that we have,” Powell said. “And I think it’s reasonable in light of the economic times we’re operating in.”

The annual budget hearing will take place on Monday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. in South Middle School, where board members will discuss the proposed spending plan.

Voters will then decide on the budget on May 15, with voting taking place between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. at four polling sites: E.M. Baker Elementary School, Saddle Rock Elementary School, Lakeville School and South High School.

To find your polling place, visit

Voters will also decide whether to re-elect Barbara Berkowitz, president of the Great Neck school board, and Don Ashkenase, the vice president of the board. According to petitions filed with the district clerk, neither election is contested.

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