Herricks Board of Education President Jim Gounaris defeated challenger Bhajan Ratra to defend his trustee seat as district residents also re-elected incumbent Trustee Henry Zannetti and the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Gounaris, a Manhasset Hills resident, received 850 total votes out of 1,065 compared to Ratra’s 215, or 79.81%.
The president thanked the district for his support and administration for presenting a “student-centered” budget.
“I would like to thank all the voters of the Herricks School District for their support of the budget and for my reelection. I also want to thank Dr. Sinanis and the admin team on putting forth such a thoughtful and student-centered budget,” Gounaris said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “My vote total serves to affirm my 24 years of dedication, transparency, and continued volunteerism to the Herricks community. It has been my honor over the last 12 years to serve on the Herricks Board of Education delivering positive change, academic excellence, transparency, and continued educational improvement to every member of our community while being mindful of the tax burden shared by our residents. Together we continue set new goals and protect our ever rising educational integrity for all our Herricks families.”
Zanetti, a Williston Park resident who served on the Herricks PTA for over a decade, was first elected to the board in 2017. He secured re-election with 863 total votes.
Both trustees will each serve a three-year term.
Residents also approved the $134.7 million budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.
The budget received 836 votes out of 1,194 total, or 70%.
The budget includes a nearly $9.5 million increase in spending compared to the current year, a 7.5% rise. Excluding pending claims and the associated legal fees, the budget represents only a 5.3% increase, Superintendent Tony Sinanis said during previous budget presentations.
The increase for 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.
Based on 2022-2023 enrollment numbers, Herricks is spending $30,687.92 per pupil, according to the new budget.
Assistant Business Superintendent Lisa Rutkoske explained during budget presentations 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 are 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.
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.