The Sewanhaka Central High School board has unveiled a proposed $244 million budget for 2023-24, which includes the implementation of new courses and several improvement projects across all five schools in the district.
Kevin O’Brien, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, detailed the budget’s plans during a public Board of Education meeting on Feb. 28. The 2023-24 spending plan is about $17 million larger than the current school year’s $227 million budget, O’Brien said.
The state aid projection for next year is more than $72 million, roughly $14 million more than what was offered this academic year. O’Brien added that there will be a 2.4 percent increase in the tax levy, which falls below the district’s tax cap.
“We’ve initiated a lot of programs with the additional federal funds that we’ve received,” Superintendent James Grossane said. “This way we can start transferring costs from the federal funds into our general budgets so programs that we put in place for students can be maintained. This large infusion from the state we’re very grateful for, because that will enable us to do that.”
The executive budget is typically split into three parts: administrative, program and capital. Administrative consists of funds for the Board of Education, district clerk, superintendent’s office, the curriculum department, legal department and several other offices. The current administrative budget stands at $28.5 million and under the proposed budget, it would jump to $29.7 million for next year.
The program budget includes funding for extracurricular activities, transportation, library media centers, school lunch, health services and several other areas. According to the Feb. 28 presentation, the total funds set aside for programs will be roughly $185.9 million — a 7.75 percent hike from this year.
O’Brien said an estimated $28.9 million, or a roughly $2.7 million increase, has been reserved for the capital portion — which encompasses buildings and grounds, security, debt service and transfer to capital projects.
School officials also outlined the capital improvement projects planned for each of the five buildings, with all of the schools slated to upgrade their auditorium projections, lights and sound systems.
Other capital improvement plans include renovating Elmont High School’s main office and restoring Sewanhaka High School’s clock tower. Officials said they plan to upgrade security cameras district-wide as well.
Grossane discussed the new courses listed in the 2023-24 budget, such as the expansion of the school research programs throughout the district, implementation of human body systems and AP computer science elective courses, and the enhancement of the current real estate and investment course, leading students to take the real estate license exam.
Beginning next year, all ninth-graders will be required to enroll in a new financial literacy course.
“This is pretty much a national movement and we are a little ahead of the curve there,” Grossane said. “It’s not yet required by New York State, but we heard from our students that they felt this was a very valuable tool for them to learn.”
Last year, Grossane said the district hired several new guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists to help students with their social and emotional needs as they returned to school during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He added it was money “well invested” because many students were struggling, and school district officials continue to support them as best they can.
Also up for a vote on the May 16 ballot is a proposition to expend funds from the capital reserve, O’Brien said. Grossane explained that the district is desperately in need of some repairs, including improvements to the cafeteria and kitchen at Elmont, Floral Park, H. Frank Carey and New Hyde Park high schools.
School officials also want to expand the career and technical education program and fix up some of the interiors of the buildings.
Grossane said the capital reserve is the schools’ accumulated savings over multiple years and these funds are designed for building maintenance. The capital reserve allocation has no impact on taxes, the superintendent added.
“When we see the CTE program facility expansion, we will be adding another structure on the grounds here at Sewanhaka High School, which will house our cosmetology program,” Grossane said. “Something more modern, it hasn’t been redone in over 30 years and it also frees up some classroom space.”
The full budget presentation from Feb. 28 is available for the public to view on the Sewanhaka Central High School district website. To find out more, visit Bit.Ly/3ZoBbAf.