By Samuel Glasser
Henry R. Zanetti, a Williston Park resident and active Herricks PTA member, is running to fill a soon-to-be-empty seat on the Herricks school board, he said last week.
Zanetti is looking to fill the vacancy left by Trustee Christine Turner, a former school board president who has decided to step down after 27 years on the school board.
“I’ve done enough PTA and now I want to see what it’s like from the other side of the table,” Zanetti said in an interview Friday.
Incumbent Trustee James Gounaris, first elected in 2011, said he plans to run for a third three-year term on the board. He served as school board president from 2013 to 2015.
Zanetti is a retired U.S. Customs inspector who was chief of the cargo inspection branch at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
He has two children in the Herricks schools and has been active in the PTAs for a decade.
As a member of the board, Zanetti said, he would have a duty to help foster communication between the district and the parents and voters.
“It’s important,” he said. “You can always have better communication. I’m always interested in hearing from other people along that line,” he said.
Zanetti said the school board does “a good job” of abiding by the state’s cap on property tax increases, a law that has made the board “much more constrained and careful.”
“There are big issues with state aid and how it’s allocated,” Zanetti said. “I’d like to see the board and district be active in lobbying the state Education Department to do right by our district.”
Last Thursday night, the Herricks school board adopted a $111.2 million budget for the 2017-18 school year, essentially unchanged from its earlier draft despite not knowing how much state aid the district will receive because the state budget, due on April 1, had not been completed.
The state Legislature passed a budget on Sunday that gives Herricks about $12.1 million in state aid, an increase of about $731,000, or 6.4 percent, from the current year.
“Nothing has changed on the basics” of expenditures and revenues, Lisa Rutkoske, the assistant superintendent for business, said.
As previously proposed, spending will increase by less than one percent and the tax levy will stay within the tax cap, increasing by 1.62 percent. The outlays for school programs, $85.5 million; capital expenses, $13.8 million; and administrative costs, $11.9 million, are also unchanged.
Six teachers took advantage of a retirement incentive, which is expected to save the district $380,000 a year since the new teachers who will replace them will come in at lower salaries, Rutkoske said.
Additionally, a social worker is retiring and that position will not be filled, Rutkoske said.
These savings coupled with possible deferred spending on some items — such as new lighting for the high school driveway or new ceiling tiles in three schools — would give the district enough financial flexibility to hire up to four additional teachers to keep class sizes within the district guidelines should enrollment increase over the summer.
Fino Celano, the superintendent of schools, said the budget preserves all academic programs, provides funding for music, arts, athletics, special education and extracurricular activities and provides for technology upgrades.
He also noted that the district launched its revamped website at herricks.org on April 1.
District residents will vote on the budget and for the two school board seats on May 16.