Great Neck School District considers use of reserves in 2024-2025 budget

Great Neck School District considers use of reserves in 2024-2025 budget
Great Neck North High School. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Great Neck School District is projecting a shortfall in its revenues for the 2024-2025 budget, leading the district to consider using fund balance and reserves money to bridge the gap with a forecasted budget increase.

Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance John O’Keefe provided the first budget presentation for the school district’s 2024-2025 budget Tuesday night at the Great Neck Board of Education meeting.

The district is projecting a 2024-2025 revenue of $267,678,955. This is a drop of almost $4.5 million from the current budget.

The 2024-2025 revenue projection did not include money from the fund balance and revenues whereas the 2023-2024 budgeted revenue amount includes $13.6 million of these funds.

O’Keefe said the district will also consider using its fund balance and reserves in the 2024-2025 budget.

While O’Keefe said the 2024-2025 projected revenues may not be enough to balance the budget expenditures, the district will be making decisions on how to bridge the gap as it continues drafting its budget. He said this does not imply budget cuts will need to be made.

The district did not provide the projected expenditures for the 2024-2025 budget, which O’Keefe told Blank Slate has not been finalized. He said he does anticipate the budget to increase, though, and follow growth trends akin to prior years.

The Great Neck Public Schools adopted a 2023-2024 budget of $272,138,300, which was a 4.09% budget increase from the prior year. The current budget also included a 3.07% tax levy increase.

The district is also proposing a preliminary tax levy increase of 3.26% for the 2024-2025 budget. This number has been presented before the district has finalized its preliminary budget and can be changed before it is adopted.

O’Keefe said the 3.26% tax increase proposal is within the state’s tax cap due to other aspects of the formula that allow it to be more than a 2% increase.

On June 30, the district had a fund balance and reserves that amounted to $75,450,724, which has increased over the past five years.

O’Keefe said $13,606,813 of the district’s reserves were used as a revenue source for the 2023-2024 budget.

State aid amounts to 4.5%-5% of the school district’s annual revenues, O’Keefe said, and the district is proposed to receive a 2.83% increase in state aid for next year.

For the 2024-2025 budget, Great Neck Public Schools is proposed to receive $15,289,918 in total.

O’Keefe called this a “modest increase.”

With many school districts seeing a drop in their foundation aid – or the state aid offered to mitigate inequities in education – under the governor’s proposal for the next budget, Great Neck is proposed to also receive a slight drop to $9,017,619 – a 0.32% decrease.

“We are, right now, in a better position than a lot of our neighbors that are experiencing, unfortunately, a large decrease in state aid,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe said the district is seeing increases in its expenditures, most notably health insurance which he said increased this year by $5.5 million. The health insurance increase alone accounted for more than half of the district’s budget increase for 2023-2024.

The district is also projecting potential capital expenditures to amount to $7,653,000 in the next budget for various projects district-wide and purchasing two new school buses.

O’Keefe said the district administration is suggesting the board create a new capital reserve fund, which would be voted on in May by the public. The reserves would be able to fund future capital projects, which O’Keefe compared to a savings account for the district that comes at no cost to the public and would accrue interest.

Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said the district is looking to strengthen its excellence, tradition of high achievement, fiscal responsibility and continued improvement through the 2024-2025 budget.

“The tagline you’ve heard me use many times is ‘the race for excellence has no finish line,’’ Bossert said. “And while the position of Great Neck Public Schools right now is extraordinary and the achievement our students demonstrate each day is exceptional, we want to make sure we continue to find areas for focus, explore opportunities for continued growth and really enhance all of the opportunities that our students experience pre-K to 12 each day.”

The district will present more on its 2024-2025 budget at the March 26 and April 18 Board of Education meetings. An official budget hearing will be held on May 8 before the budget faces a vote by the community on May 21.

In other news, the Great Neck School District is going into litigation against social media companies, joining in on a suit being pushed forward by many other school districts.

Bossert said the litigation concerns the “damaging effect” social media has been perceived to have on students’ mental health.

“I think it’s important litigation that will raise awareness about the damaging impact that social media has had on our generation of children and students that we are currently working with,” Bossert said. “As educators, we combat every day the negative impact that the many social media platforms have on our children, and while we believe there are positive influences of certain forms of social media, we are calling upon increased legislation to govern the content and the availability of social media to adolescents.”

The board also adopted multiple policies for the school district Tuesday night, including a revision to its student driving policy, a new policy concerning the expression of breast milk in the workplace and its whistleblower policy.

The Great Neck Board of Education will convene again on March 26.

This story has been updated. An earlier version of this story said the district’s revenues were projected to decrease in 2024-2025, which is inaccurate. The district is considering using reserve funds to supplement its revenues to balance the budget. Excluding the use of reserves in its revenues, the district’s revenues are projected to increase from the current budget.

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