Ratra running for Herricks board to provide experience, help lower tax levy

Ratra running for Herricks board to provide experience, help lower tax levy
Bhajan Ratra is running for the Herricks Board of Education on May 16. (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

Bhajan Ratra said he is running for the Herricks Board of Education to bring his background in education to the district and help lower the tax levy.

Ratra is challenging Trustee Jim Gounaris, who serves as president of the Board of Ed. Trustee Henry Zannetti is running unopposed for a three-year term in the May 16 election. 

Ratra is a retired adjunct professor of mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. He previously was a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examination and has served in the past on the standards-setting committee for the NYS Regents exams.

He said he would propose lowering the district’s tax levy through “professional development days” throughout the school year where district teachers would be in groups of five or six to learn and write grants from $2,000 to $5,000 to the state for more aid for the district. 

“It would help our district get revenue through the grants and lower the tax levy.”

The Herricks budget for the 2023-2024 school year is $134,719,970, which is a 7.50% spending increase. 

Excluding pending claims and the associated legal fees, the budget represents only a 5.3% increase, district officials said.

The budget’s tax levy is an increase of 1.83%, which is equal to the tax cap determined by the state and falls below the 2% allowable growth factor limit.

On the revenue side, state aid represents 18% of incoming funds.  Total state aid of $25 million represents an increase of $8 million over last year.

Ratra said with money saved on the tax levy, he would look into hiring a “professional” coach for the varsity baseball team. The current varsity coach is Richard Bizelia, who is a physical education teacher at Herricks High School and has been the coach for over a decade. 

If elected. Ratra said he would push for more diversity in district administration, election inspectors and push for the district to use the same grading system through all of its classes. 

Ratra also said he would walk through different communities in the district every two weeks to gauge feedback from constituents. The Board of Education also meets multiple times every month throughout the school year where the public can speak. 

Gounaris’ challenger added he is asking for the community’s support to provide his experience to the board.

“I’m here to help the community and help lower the tax levy,” Ratra said. “I am advocating for their child and to provide a safe environment.”

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