Manhasset schools budget includes largest facilities investment in ten years

Manhasset schools budget includes largest facilities investment in ten years
Shelter Rock Elementary School.(Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The Manhasset Public Schools’ proposed budget of $99.5 million accommodates an additional elementary school counselor, more “future-ready” classrooms and additional security at the secondary school, all of which Superintendent Vincent Butera listed as highlights of a plan that he said would both enhance the district and respect taxpayers’ pockets.

It also includes the district’s most significant investment in district facilities in a decade, said Deputy Superintendent for Business and Finance Rosemary Johnson.

The budget is about 3.2 percent higher than the current budget of $96.37 million, an increase that is within the tax levy cap.

“We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve included in the budget and how we’re looking to continue to expand and really enhance the Manhasset experience while also being very mindful to the taxpayers,” Butera said in an interview.

The school district will adopt the budget on April 16 and hold a public vote on May 21.

With the current district-wide enrollment of 3,266, the tentative budget equates to about $30,464 spent per pupil.

The additional elementary school counselor would allow both Shelter Rock Elementary School and Munsey Park Elementary School to have a full-time employee in that position. Currently, a single counselor splits time between both schools.

Adding a second is an investment in social-emotional learning, Butera said.

The budget has not increased at all in the areas of equipment, repairs and facility maintenance over the last 10 years, Johnson said. This year’s budget changes that, and the future-ready classrooms expansion is among the beneficiaries of those funds. 

The initiative would upgrade fifth- and sixth-grade rooms as well as a social studies classroom at the secondary school, she said. Such changes involve new, more mobile furniture that accommodates different types of learning, such as flexible tables and seating and stand-up desks, as well as general repairs to lighting, ceilings and walls.

The investment would total approximately $275,000, Johnson said.

The district started the effort last year, but only upgraded four rooms.

The investment in facilities would also include about $300,000 worth of general repairs to all three schools, such as the art room in Shelter Rock Elementary School.

A new security booth at the secondary school entrance, which would cost about $65,000, would be a continued investment in security. In addition, $125,000 would be placed in a reserve for repair, which could support emergencies, Johnson said.

The reserve currently holds slightly under $150,000, she said.

“For the kinds of facilities we have, that’s woefully inadequate, and we really have not been able to fund that here before,” Johnson said. “We’ve had too many pulls on our budget dollars, but we were able to this year put into our budget a transfer to the repair reserve.”

Other budget highlights include a new visitor management system at the secondary school along with two new security guards, an additional elementary school orchestra teacher and a continued expansion of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Butera said.

The reading and writing curriculum will be expanded through second grade next year. Since the district will not implement the program in grades three and four until the following year, the district decided to hire only one new literacy specialist to administer it.

In January, Rebecca Chowskehad, district coordinator of English language arts, suggested that two literacy specialists be hired this year so that each could be designated to a single elementary school from the outset. 

As the budget nears the adoption date, it will likely not experience substantive changes, Johnson said.

The budget reflects the emphasis the district puts on being conservative, she said.

“We have fastidious attention to detail and that allows us to have the programs we have but at a significantly lower cost than our peers,” Johnson said. “The budget reflects the values in the community and what the community has asked us to focus on.”

There will be an informal budget hearing March 28 at Shelter Rock Elementary School and a second at Munsey Park on April 11.

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