By Jennifer Corr
Earlier this month, the Jericho Union Free School District Board of Education held its third budget planning workshop.
In addition to voting on the budget, taxpayers will be asked on April 18 to vote on a proposition that will authorize the board of education to expend not more than approximately $7 million from the capital reserves and fund balance in order to complete capital improvements, such as districtwide bathroom upgrades, districtwide window replacements, music classroom reconstruction at the middle and high school, districtwide ceiling and lighting upgrades, among other projects.
At the last budget workshop meeting on Feb. 9, Victor Manuel, Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs, said the tax cap would rise to 4.37 percent, but the tax levy will not be close to that.
District projects that will be funded by the budget and capital project monies were also discussed at the meeting.
There was also a decrease in the special needs budget line because there are fewer students with IEPs.
To read the previous story on the Jericho Union Free School District budget planning for year 2023 through 2024, click here.
“This year some of the challenges we’re facing on the budget side, the expenditure side, are significant increase in health insurance premiums… transportation… and overall inflation,” Manuel said. “Our tax levy will certainly not be flat this year, but it will not be at 4.37 percent.”
The 2023 through 2024 projected enrollment is 3,225, down from 3,324 for 2022 through 2023, according to data gathered by BOCES demographers this past October.
In this budget process, we may also see a change in funds towards instructional staff salaries. Funding towards elementary instructors, tutors and research and development faculty would increase from approximately $16.5 million in the current year, to approximately $16.9 million. As far as secondary school, funding towards elementary instructors, tutors and research and development faculty would increase from approximately $21.3 million in the current year to approximately $21.8 million. These monies just cover salaries, not benefits.
As for employee benefits, the budget has increased from approximately $30 million to approximately $33 million. The driver of that increase is primarily health and dental insurance and the New York State Retirement System.
Funding for textbooks used in schools district-wide has increased from $390,869 in the current year to $404,612.
When asked if the district was going in a more digital direction when it comes to their text books, Manuel said that the district is, but the district will pull the funding for it out of the textbook budget lines.
That leads us to the district’s technology plans.
According to the presentation, the district has completed its first website re-design in over a decade; the district is fully one-to-one with Chromebooks and has a refresh cycle supplemented through the Smart Schools Investment Plan (meaning that the district will replace units); every Smart Board has been replaced; emails, PowerSchool, storage and most backups have been migrated to the cloud; every district employee uses a multi-factor authentication to log into Google or Microsoft services; almost every piece of software is part of the Classlink single sign-on initiative; 24/7 network monitoring has been added; and the district has transitioned to computer-based testing and has received excellent experience doing so.
The district has also taken steps towards upping computer technology security, considering all the hacking-related situations that have been happening in the industry.
Jericho parents have been offered device insurance for the first time, and there’s a Chromebook depot at the high school and middle school managed by a technology staff member. Jericho Middle School’s library has also been upgraded with six printers that can print in color and black and white, and they have the most powerful desktop PCs in the district.
With that said, the technology budget has increased from approximately $3.1 million in the current year to approximately $3.2 million.
Another aspect of the district discussed was athletics.
“The Jericho athletic program continues to be strong,” said John Mankowich, the curriculum associate for Health, Physical Education, and Athletics. “As of right now, at the high school level you have 31 varsity programs, 16 junior varsity programs and we have two programs that are labeled JV9 and JVB. The middle school program has 30 teams throughout the year. Eight of those are separate seventh and eighth. And we have 14 that are combined seventh and eighth grade programs.”
There are multiple athletic program offerings at Jericho High School and Jericho Middle School, varying in seasons, sports and levels, all the way from varsity and JV boys badminton in the fall (girls badminton takes place in the spring), varsity and JV boys and girls basketball in the winter, to varsity boys and girls golf in the spring.
“You’ll see in the spring season we added unified basketball for this coming year,” Mankowich said. “That is a special needs program where we combine students in our special needs classes with our general education students and they will be playing competitive basketball games with other schools… It’s a lot of fun. We went last year to watch schools play and this year it culminates with a big play day with all 14 schools that have it.”
Mankowich said the unified basketball team would love to host the other schools this year.
The interscholastic athletics budget has increased from approximately $1.3 million to approximately $1.4 million.
Another line item discussed was transportation, which has increased from approximately $6.3 million to approximately $7 million. The district is budgeting for two 30-passenger vans and technology equipment for two vans.
First Student bus services provides 19 buses, 28 vans and seven per pupil pick-ups, serving five public schools, 23 private and parochial schools and five special education schools. For the 2023 through 2024 budget, the district anticipates bringing the number of vans down to 26.
“What a per-pupil is, that if a bus is going to a particular private school and there are a couple of students from Roslyn or another district, if it works within that particular route, we would get charged a per-pupil rather than purchasing an entire bus for a school year,” Manuel said.
Buses and vans are assigned to multiple daily trips, up to eight trips each.
“[Lori-Ann Savino] does a great job scheduling and I want to add that she basically rips up this year’s schedule and starts from scratch every year in order to be as efficient as possible,” Manuel said. “She tries to put pieces together to minimize the cost.”
All of the district buses have also been equipped with Storm Arm cameras to record illegal passing when buses are unloading students. Most of the First Student buses have also been equipped. As far as the funds that would come in from the tickets that would be issued, $250 to $300 per violation, Manuel explained that there are currently negotiations about how much entities would get, as Nassau County wants to get some of the money.
To view the latest budget presentation, or watch it on YouTube, visit jerichoschools.org. The next budget meeting will be held March 16.