Unexpected increase in state aid for Great Neck schools

Unexpected increase in state aid for Great Neck schools
Barbara Berkowitz, president of the Great Neck school board, prepares to respond as someone speaks before the board during open time. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Great Neck Public Schools will be seeing more than $700,000 more in state aid than they did last year, school officials said in Monday interviews, following the passage of a state budget that increases education aid by about $1 billion.

Great Neck school officials originally expected a $317,967 increase in state aid from $8.9 million to $9.21 million, their preliminary 2018-2019 budget suggests.

Now that number will go increase to $9.6 million, according to Jon Powell, the assistant superintendent for business, or another $390,888.

“We’re looking to keep the tax levy as low as possible, so any increases in expenditures we are going to hopefully fund with the additional state aid and we may use additional fund balance and reserves,” Powell said.

Powell added that this was a “very surprising,” but “very generous” boost in state aid based on the overall wealth of the school district.

Don Ashkenase, the vice president of the Great Neck school board, said the school district saw a 7.4 percent increase in state aid – nearly double the percentage of the average across other schools.

“It was good news,” Don Ashkenase, the vice president of the Great Neck school board, said of the extra aid Great Neck will be getting. “And I’m not sure I expected it, necessarily.”

Barbara Berkowitz, the president of the Great Neck school board, said they haven’t had extensive talks yet with school administrators about how the extra $390,888 will be allocated – but it will likely go toward extra safety measures.

“The board hasn’t discussed it yet with the administration,” school board President Barbara Berkowitz said of the increased state aid in a Monday interview. “My feeling is that it will go toward security.”

According to their current preliminary budget proposal, which does not take the additional state aid into account, state aid accounts for 4.05 percent of the proposed $227.8 million budget, which would be a 2.01 percent increase from the current $223.3 million one.

The vast majority of the revenue in the proposed budget – or 89.31 percent –comes from the property tax levy, which would increase 2.47 percent from $198.56 million to $203.46 million.

The boost in state aid comes from the state Senate passing a $168.3 billion state budget, with $26.7 billion of it going toward school aid. This is about 3.9 percent higher than last year.

The increased focus on boosting school security follows a March 5 school board budget meeting in which school officials and police officers from Nassau County fielded questions, comments and concerns from parents and students for more than three hours about security.

Preceding that meeting were social media posts construed as shooting threats, which prompted many parents to let their children stay home and a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14 that killed 17 people.

School officials recently expressed support for boosting the school’s security spending, which is currently proposed to be more than $2 million.

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