Franklin Square residents to help create school budget

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Thirteen Franklin Square residents are helping their elementary school district craft its 2020 - 21 budget as members of the district’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee.

The members work on a volunteer basis to ask questions about the budget and help determine how the district could use its unallocated funds. “When we have discretionary planning,” Theresa Hennessy, the assistant superintendent of finance, explained, “maybe we can develop new programs.”

Since its inception in the 1990s, the committee has helped create the district’s preschool program as well as its one-to-one tablet program. “The district provides that all at a low cost,” said Larry Nedelka, who has served on the committee for nearly 10 years.

He decided to join, he said, because he wanted to ensure that residents get “the best bang for their buck.” His first year, he noted, he saw how well the district managed its finances. “I was amazed by how they were on top of all the breaks they could get,” Nedelka, who has a background in municipal budgeting, recalled.

He will once again serve on the committee in January, when he and a dozen other Franklin Square residents will receive a copy of the district’s expected expenses and revenues for the year, and start discussing ideas for new programs. 

The budget evolves over time, however, Chairman Dennis McDonnell noted, and the committee its proposal for the budget at the end of March based on the amount of state aid the district is expected to receive and its allowable tax increase. Then, the chairperson prepares a report to finalize the committee’s proposal, which is presented to the Board of Education in April.

McDonnell said the committee cannot change the district’s contractual expenses, and said he “would not be surprised” if the allowable tax increase is above 2 percent based on the state’s formula.

But Nedelka said he always tries to “see how many quarters we could squeeze out of nickels,” and ensures that there is enough money to sustain the district’s programs. The past few budgets, he noted, have been successful in maintaining all of the Franklin Square School District’s programs. 

“It’s a very well thought out approach,” Nedelka said of the committee. “It’s really, really a great system in our district.”