Herricks takes look at budget expenditures, Gounaris and Zanetti announce re-election bids

Herricks takes look at budget expenditures, Gounaris and Zanetti announce re-election bids
Herricks Board of Education President Jim Gounaris, left, and Vice President Henry Zanetti. (Photos courtesy of The Island 360 archives)

The second budget 2023-2024 budget presentation for the Herricks Public School District took a deeper look at next year’s projected expenditures during the Board of Education meeting Thursday night. 

Also during the meeting, board President Jim Gounaris and Vice President Henry Zanetti each announced their candidacy for the upcoming district elections on Tuesday, May 16.

The 2023-2024 budget includes an almost $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. 

Sinanis added that he has spoken informally with superintendents and business officials in other local districts and said the 5.3% increase “is very much in the average range of where districts currently sit.”

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 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. 

“We want to reiterate to the community that these expenditures are being driven by the students, maintaining programs and ensuring that they do so in a healthy and safe environment,” Rutkoske said. 

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.

In unrelated district news, there will be a ribbon-cutting for the new Herricks High School auditorium on March 23 before the board of education meeting. 

Gounaris, a Manhasset Hills resident, was previously 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, following Zannetti.

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.

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