The first budget presentation for the 2023-24 school year was introduced to the Herricks Public School District Board of Education at their meeting on Feb. 16.
The budget was presented by Tony Sinais, superintendent of the Herricks School District, and Lisa Rutkoske, assistant superintendent for business for the district.
This budget presented at the meeting was almost $9.5 million greater than the 2022-23 budget. This represents a 7.5% increase from the previous year. Excluding pending claims and the associated legal fees, however, this is only a 5.3% increase from last year’s budget, Sinais explained.
The proposed projected lax levy increase over the 2022-23 budget is 1.83%. This is equal to the tax cap determined acceptable by the district and state.
Rutkoske presented the major drivers behind the budget increase, the largest of which is legal claims and a potential legal settlement taking up almost $2.8 million, or 30%, of the growth.
The next two largest budget drivers are health insurance and “contractual obligations,” with about a $2 million increase each.
Special education, facilities, debt, textbooks and technology were also mentioned as causes for the budget increase.
Sinais presented some of the specific budget features being recommended by the district administration. This included the addition of a school counselor at Herricks High School because of increased enrollment and the desire to manage counselors’ caseloads.
“We know that our counselors do a lot of work, and not just academic work but the social-emotional work,” Sinais said.
They also recommended hiring assistant principals for Searingtown and Center Street Elementary Schools.
Other budget features included funding for social-emotional learning programs, special education services, English as a New Language programs, new musical and athletic equipment, additional sports, such as varsity girl’s flag football, and more initiatives.
The presentation was intended to be transparent about where the money would go, because “we are well aware of the increase we are presenting to the community,” Rutkoske said.
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.
“After many years of advocating, Herricks has been fortunate to finally receive its fair share it should have been [getting], had the formula been working,” Rutkoske said.
There will be further discussions regarding the budget in March and early April. Sinais stressed that “the budget does evolve over time.”
After April 4, however, there can be no more changes to the 2023-24 budget, and it will be voted on by the community on May 16. Rutkoske encouraged everyone to register to vote in order to be able to participate.
The Herricks Board of Education will have its next meeting on March 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Denton School Ave, and the budget will be discussed during this meeting as well.