May 12, 2017--
Just a smattering of residents filled some of the rear seats set up in the High School Library on Thursday May 4 for the North Shore Board of Education's "Town Meeting." Only two residents spoke during the single public comment period - one regarding the budget and a second community member concerning the Special Education program.
Dr. Melnick opened with a "budget reading," offering a brief overview of the $102,113,514.86 budget proposal for 2017-18 that represents a 2.63% increase over the current year and allows the district to maintain all current programs and teaching positions, while adding a high school guidance counselor, converting a part-time Social Worker into a full-time position, and creating a .4 teaching position for a music theory class.
On the revenue side, despite an "inflation factor"of 1.26%, the rate that is used for determining the district's individual tax levy limit, the tax cap for next year is actually down by $9,000, or about 0.01%. This is due to an adjustment from last year concerning Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) on Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) properties (click here for past article for explanation).
In addition to the budget, Dr. Melnick explained, residents will also have the opportunity to vote on a second proposition which would reduce the distance requirements for students in 7th and 8th grade to receive busing to the Middle School beginning next school year.
Currently students in grades kindergarten through 5th grade must live at least ¾ of a mile from school to receive district transportation, while those in 6th grade- one mile; and those in grades 7 through 12 - one and a half miles. The new distance requirements would equalize those for all middle schoolers so that 7 and 8th graders who live at least one mile from school would be eligible for transportation.
An analysis conducted by the District’s transportation office concluded that, because of space available on buses currently running the various routes, there would be no additional buses or trips required and as result would create no additional costs to taxpayers.
The budget vote and busing referendum, along with the Board of Trustees election will take place on Tuesday May 16 from 7 am to 10 pm at the North Shore High School gymnasium.
Sea Cliff resident Jerry Romano was the only resident to comment on the proposal. He said that according to Newsday, the district serves 2600 students and that with a budget of close to $103 million that amounts to about $38,000 per pupil. That, he said, is roughly 38% higher than nearby districts like Manhasset and Herricks which have similar socio/economic characteristics. He asked if that was accurate and if so, what would account for that.
Dr. Melnick replied that he would have to look into that, but that the New York State Department of Education website provides the numbers, and that that would be a good place to check. (See chart to the right for last year's figures posted by the NYSED)
If the Newsday figures are accurate, the Superintendent said, tuition costs for students in need of certain special education services that can only be delivered out of district can contribute to that disparity. Those costs, he said, can be as high as $180,000 per pupil. Additionally, he said that debt service and transportation costs depending on whether the district offers its own buses can contribute to the difference.
Resident Lisa Vizza of Glenwood Landing asked Dr. Melnick if the District had followed up on the review of the Special Education program that had been done two years ago.
"How often does the District go back to look at the goals that were set out?" she asked. She said that it was especially important to do so at this time because of the transition taking place in the leadership of the department.
The district is currently in the process of filling Assistant Director for Special Education Services positions for both Elementary and Secondary Schools. Chris Marino, the current Assistant Director for Secondary Schools, will become Director of Special Education Services replacing Tom Korb who has announced his retirement.
Ms. Vizza said that at the previous night's Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA) meeting, parents had discussed some concerns about their experiences with the program.
"There seems to be a disconnect between parents and administrators," she said a few moments later, that not only has created some issues for parents and students, but that also has at times put teachers in a difficult position.
Dr. Melnick replied that after a review of a department or program is done, the goals that are outlined in the report are revisited every three years. He proposed that a meeting be arranged between Mr. Marino, the new Superintendent Peter Giarizzo, Assistant Superintendent Rob Chleblicki, and some of the parents this summer.
The Superintendent said that he understood the confidentiality concerns of parents and that sometimes they may be reluctant to come forward out of "a fear of retribution."
The discussion among parents at the SEPTA meeting, Ms. Vizza said, was in no way adversarial and that parents are looking to address their concerns in a positive way.
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Tax Rates - 2016-17 for Class I (residential) Properties in Nassau County
Source: Great Neck Union Free School District (Click on image to enlarge)
2015-16 Per Pupil Expenditures - North Shore and surrounding districts
Total Expenditures Per Pupil is the simple arithmetic ratio of Total Expenditures to Pupils. Total Expenditures include district expenditures for classroom instruction, as well as expenditures for transportation, debt service, community service and district-wide administration that are not included in the Instructional Expenditure values for General Education and Special Education. As such, the sum of General Education and Special Education Instructional Expenditures does not equal the Total Expenditures.
Source - NYSED Website - School District Report Cards, Fiscal Supplement