After state aid numbers released, Herricks holds pat for now on budget

James Galloway

Herricks school district received a 13 percent increase in state aid for the coming fiscal year, more than expected, but administrators say it comes with a catch.

The state projected that Herricks would receive nearly $10.5 million in 2015-16, about $1.2 million more than last year, state documents show.

The increase, however, is contingent on the district having its teacher evaluations plans approved by the state in November, Superintendent John Bierwirth said.

“We got more than we anticipated, but we’re not sure exactly how much more and when the strings will come off,” he said.

Until then, Herricks will abstain from allocating the funds, and will keep it recently adopted budget proposal as is, he said.

“At this point, we’re staying pat, not counting our chickens before they hatch, but we’re glad it’s more not less,” Bierwirth said.  

After debilitating budget cuts forced the district to cut nearly 100 positions in recent years, the district this year is taking advantage of the economic resurgence in its $108.2 million adopted budget, which restores more than 17 teaching positions.

But the district has taken precautions that the district is financially stable enough to maintain any additions for the foreseeable future.

“The board and the community have really been focused on ensuring that if we’re restoring positions or programs, that we know we can afford it for at least the next three or four years,” he said. “So we really need to see how the dust settles here to see if this will be sustainable.”

The state released aid projections for school districts earlier this month following a protracted battle between the governor and state legislature over education reforms with an increase in state funding for school districts at stake.

The 13 percent increase is one of the highest in the area, with only Roslyn and New Hyde Park-Garden City Park seeing bigger increases.

Herricks has a number of options in terms of what it can do with the funds, said Helen Costigan, the district’s assistant superintendent for business. It could appropriate it into its fund balance, return it to the taxpayers or carry it into 2016-17 as additional revenue, she said.

“In every scenario, it’s good for the taxpayers,” she said.

With the complexity of the state budget, however, she said school districts across the state are still evaluating what is required of them to get their Annual Professional Performance Review proposals approved by the state. And while certain components remain uncertain, Costigan said the district would do “everything in our power” to get state approval for the aid.

“We will do everything we can to get that money,” she said. “We will never turn away money.”

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