Great Neck voters to decide on $234.4M school budget

Great Neck voters to decide on $234.4M school budget
About 80 percent of the Great Neck school budget will be going toward programming, which primarily consists of personnel costs. (Photo courtesy of Great Neck Public Schools)

Voters in the Great Neck school district will be heading to the polls May 21 to decide on a proposed $234.4 million school budget and a school board trustee as well as a $9.65 million budget for the Great Neck Library.

This proposed district budget for the 2019-20 school year amounts to just shy of $234.42 million, or about 1.99 percent higher than the current $229.84 million budget.

This comes with a proposed tax levy increase of just under $3.95 million, or 1.94 percent, from $203.57 million to just under $207.52 million. The rest of the district’s funding comes from a combination of appropriated reserves, state aid and other revenue sources.

The district could have increased the tax levy by up to 4.09 percent due to a combination of high capital project expenditures, changes to the tax base and other factors.

“We must be sensitive to the tax impact of our school district budget on our community members, who are also facing federal tax changes and Nassau County reassessments,” Assistant Superintendent for Business John Powell said.

Great Neck’s average tax rate per $100 of assessed value for a class I residential home was 679.244 for the 2018-19 school year, making it the fifth lowest rate among Nassau County’s 62 public school districts, according to the proposed budget.

The listed tax rate of 710.92 per $100 of assessed value on the district’s property tax calculator, used to estimate the tax difference from year to year, is incorrect and will be corrected so people can more accurately see the difference, Powell said.

“They need transparency,” Powell said. “They need to know.”

The estimated tax rate per $100 assessed value is going to be $719.47 per $100 of assessed value – a nearly 40-point difference stemming from changes with the Nassau County reassessment process, Powell also said.

About 80 percent of the budget goes toward programming, which includes teacher salaries, benefits, instructional materials and other items. The rest goes toward capital expenditures – unrelated to projects pertaining to a $68.3 million bond – and administration costs.

Officials say this budget will support ongoing programs, add teaching positions to handle rising enrollment, and add staff to support English as a New Language and special education services. It also comes with a roaming nurse, two guards, and expands the universal pre-K program to John F. Kennedy Elementary School.

“With this proposed budget, our students will continue to receive the innovative instruction that has established the Great Neck Public Schools as a premier school district on Long Island, in the state and in the country,” Superintendent of Schools Teresa Prendergast said.

If one were to divide the total budget by the projected 6,671 students, the Great Neck school district would be spending $35,140 per student. School officials in the past have said this is an inaccurate figure, however, as it does not incorporate other operating expenses.

Among those expenses are maintaining the 18 buildings under district ownership and the more than $5 million the district gives to private schools for nurses, psychological services, textbooks, and transportation.

Powell said the estimated cost per pupil for the 2018-19 school year in the standard educational curriculum for kindergarten to sixth grade is $16,631 – $801 higher than the year before. For special education students in the same grades, that number is estimated at $76,720, which is $2,094 higher than in the 2017-18 school year.

The estimated cost per pupil in the standard curriculum for grades 7 to 12 is $24,698, up $1,342 from the 2017-18 school year. For special education students in the same grade bracket, the cost is estimated to be $84,787 per pupil. This is about $2,625 higher than last year.

Donna Peirez, the school board’s policy committee chairwoman, is also running for re-election uncontested. She was first elected in a special election in 2016 after nearly 30 years as a teacher in Lakeville School and holding several leadership positions in parent and teacher organizations, according to her online biography.

The elections are being held as the Great Neck schools plan to embark on $42.5 million worth of bond projects over the summer, a major chunk of the $77.84 million to be spent on “critical” infrastructure projects and educational and building enhancements.

Voters approved a $68.3 million bond in 2017, to be paid back over two decades, to help finance the projects. The rest of the money comes from district borrowing.

On May 21, voters will also be able to decide on the Great Neck Library’s proposed $9.65 million budget, which does not feature a tax increase. It is about $4,000 lower than the current operating budget.

The budget supports the operation of the Main Library, located at 159 Bayview Ave., and its three branches: Station in Great Neck Plaza, Lakeville near the Queens border, and Parkville in North New Hyde Park.

Elections will take place on Tuesday, May 21, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There are four polling locations: E.M. Baker School, Lakeville School, Saddle Rock School, and South High School.

Voters can find their assigned polling place by visiting

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