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Schools prepare for budget vote

Franklin Square, Elmont and Sewanhaka elections approach

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The Elmont, Franklin Square and Sewanhaka Central High school districts recently presented their budget proposals for the 2019-2020 school year. Officials in all three districts said their budgets maintain current programming, and both Franklin Square and Elmont officials said they were among the most successful districts in Nassau County in managing smaller budgets.

“We take great pride in providing our students with a strong foundation for academic success,” Franklin Square interim Superintendent Rainer Melucci wrote in a letter to parents about this year’s budget. “Our fiscal constraint and cost-saving measures have enabled us to keep the tax rate at the lowest possible level… In fact, we still have the lowest per-pupil expenditure in Nassau County.”

This year, the proposed Franklin Square School District budget comes in at more than $39 million — a nearly $700,000 increase over last year. With this budget, the school district would maintain its 23-student class size, as well as pre-K and kindergarten programs. The district would also work to expand its 1-1 computing initiative, after-school, transportation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs. The proposed tax-levy increase was set at 1.81 percent.

Last year residents voted to approve a $3 million bond referendum to renovate half the district’s bathrooms. This year, an additional proposition has also been included on this year’s ballot for a $2 million bond to renovate the remaining half.

Elmont

On the Elmont side, which has the seventh lowest per-pupil expenditure in the county, the proposed budget is set at about $93 million, a $3.5 million increase from last year. Homeowners can expect an on-average school-tax increase of roughly 25 cents per day, according to district officials. Like Franklin Square, Elmont will be able to maintain its class sizes while also expanding its after-school, summer and STEM programs. The district also plans to use more than $700,00 to replace dated buses and furniture in the schools.

Following a similar move in the Sewanhaka Central High School District, the Elmont School District will add hours for school safety personnel and patrols, as well as update its visitor management system. Through its home visits program and investigations for new registrants, district officials removed 42 non-residents from the district, reportedly saving nearly a million dollars. It will continue the program next year.

Elmont’s proposed tax levy has been set to a 2.68 percent increase, just below the state-mandated tax-levy cap.

Sewanhaka

In the Sewanhaka Central High School District, a proposed budget of over $203 million would allow the district to continue to fund the district’s programs that push all students to take advanced classes and state tests at earlier levels, as well as continue its one-to-one iPad program. And with the success of the new Prestige Academy and Academic Learning Center — which serve non-traditional students and suspended students, respectively — district officials hope to hire a transition specialist who can help meet the needs of at-risk students.

“This is an excellent support program for our students, and many districts have similar programs that proven to be a great help for the students who need it,” John Kenny, who oversees the Prestige Academy, previously told the Herald.

The district also has capital projects in store for each of its five high schools. Elmont Memorial High School would receive a new water heater and public address system. H. Frank Carey would see new entrances and resurfacing of its west-side driveway, and a new tennis court would be installed at Sewanhaka High School.

Additionally, the proposed budget includes the installation of new fire alarm and lock systems for all district schools. And the spending plan calls for an additional security guard to be placed at each of its five high schools to watch over the school during the afternoon, when students are in extracurricular activities.

While Sewanhaka Superintendent Ralph Ferrie said he was grateful for an increase in state aid funds this year, which reached nearly $42 million, he warned that the state needed to revisit its 2 percent tax-levy cap. Ferrie, who helped guide Sewanhaka through a “tumultuous period” when the cap was first placed in 2012, said it would eventually hinder the growth of school districts across the state.

“Districts are eventually going to need more money than the cap can provide, and we need to change the cap before it gets to that,” Ferrie said during the State of Elmont community meeting in April.

Elmont residents can register for the budget vote on or before May 14 at the Elmont Road School building. Franklin Square residents can register at the Washington Street School. The budget vote will be held on May 21. Residents will also vote on several Board of Education trustee candidates, all of whom are running unopposed.