Jericho Begins Budget Planning For 2024-2025 School Year

The Jericho Union Free School District is among the districts on Long Island and in New York State that are beginning their budget planning process amid uncertainty about how much Foundation Aid they will lose this upcoming year.
“The bulk of anyone’s state aid is Foundation Aid,” explained Jericho Union Free School District Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs Victor Manuel.
Manuel added that the district has been happy with State Gov. Kathy Hochul for the past two years, as she’s been a part of providing more funding for districts across the state.
“One year after touting her success with that… she decided to change a few things this year in her proposal,” Manuel said, explaining the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, component of the formula for Foundation Aid. “Being that 4 percent [CPI] was too high, she decided to change it to a 10-year average. Instead of the 4.12 percent that went into the calculation, it was a little over two percent that went into the calculation, which was significantly lower.”
Manuel added that the district will also be impacted by Hochul’s plan to eliminate “save harmless,” which guarantees a district will receive the Foundation Aid they received the prior year even if there’s a significant change of wealth, enrollment or any other factor that can impact the formula that goes into calculating Foundation Aid.
The district held its first budget presentation on Jan. 18, announcing that the tax levy cap for the 2024-2025 school year would likely be between 3.2 to 3.5 percent.
“The thick piece of the tax cap calculation is the [Consumer Price Index, CPI], and it’s lesser than two percent or whatever the CPI was for this past year,” said Manuel. “This past year, the CPI was 4.12 percent, but again, it’s the lesser of two… So two percent for that calculation was what we used.”
Because the 2023-2024 tax levy was far below the maximum allowable threshold of 4.37 percent at 2.77 percent, the district was entitled to a “carry-over” of the unused tax levy for this upcoming year’s budget.
Similar to last year, the district is also experiencing a significant increase in health insurance premiums, as well as general liability and property insurance. Child Victims Act cases are among the drivers increasing the cost of insurance.
“Transportation costs, we’re concerned about,” Manuel explained. “We’re working with our contractor, but those costs are increasing significantly.”

Recommended Capital Projects for the 2024-2025 Budget
Over the past eight years, Director of Buildings and Grounds Michael Hahn and architect John Grillo have been continually assessing the district’s buildings and grounds, recommending projects for the district to undertake.
In the presentation on Jan. 18, items highlighted in yellow are projects recommended for the upcoming budget’s capital funding.
“One thing you will see throughout each of the buildings is we’re allocating dollars for what’s called district-wide pump plumbing upgrades,” Manuel explained. “As the community knows, we had a significant flood in the electrical room of the high school a couple of months ago during Thanksgiving and one of the things we want to do is to be able to have the funds to hire a contractor this summer to go through all of the tunnels, the crawl spaces and see if there’s any other pipes that are in any type of condition that we feel needs replacing as soon as possible. Additionally, we want to put automatic shut-off valves and sensors throughout all the boiler rooms, electrical rooms, and anything that has any type of structural equipment.”
Manuel said the cost of such repairs has not been determined yet, but money is being allocated towards it for each building.

Recommended Capital Projects:
Cantiague Elementary School: District-wide pump/plumbing upgrades and bathroom renovations.
George A. Jackson Elementary School: District-wide pump/plumbing upgrades, auditorium reconstruction and bathroom renovations.
Jeffrey Ratner Robert Seaman Elementary School: Exterior doors, frames and hardware replacements and district-wide pump/plumbing upgrades.
Robert Williams School (Leased by the district): District-wide/plumbing upgrades.
Jericho High/Middle School: Bathroom renovations, replace small generators and district-wide pump/plumbing upgrades.
The total cost of these projects is approximately $5.7 million. However, approximately $1.275 million came out of the transfer to the Capital budget line, bringing the Capital Reserve proposition to approximately $4.4 million. The projects will be funded by the transfer to Capital Code and funded Capital Reserves.

Projects Planned for Summer 2024 and the 2024-2025 School Year
During the Jan. 18 budget presentation, Grillo discussed the capital projects that were voted on in May of 2023.
Grillo explained that these projects were submitted to the New York State Education Department the first week of September.
“As you can imagine, the SED is pretty backlogged,” Grillo said. “They’re currently reviewing projects that were submitted the first week in August, so we’re hoping this time next month we’ll have SED approval and we’ll go through the bidding process and the award process.

Projects include:
Ventilation on the first floor of Jericho Middle School
District-wide bathroom renovations
Window replacements on the second floor of Cantiague Elementary School and Jericho Middle School
Music classroom renovation at Jericho High School
Complete window replacement around the original Jericho High School and Middle School building
Completion of rooftop unit replacement at Jericho High School and Middle School
“[Voters] authorize it in May of that particular budget year, then John prepares the plan specifications and sends them up to the state, and that is a 6 to 9-month review from the state,” Manuel explained. “Depending on the project such as windows or rooftop units that have a nine-month lead time on getting the materials, you’re talking almost two years before some of these projects actually get started.”

Pupil Personnel Services
During the Feb. 8 budget presentation, Director of Pupil Personnel Services Kim Conger and Pupil Personnel Associates Jamie Hermel and Shannon Murray provided an update on their department.
The Pupil Personnel Services department is anticipating another special education class at the elementary school level.
“We are adding an additional small class next year which will be for grade 1 and 2 students,” Murray explained. “Over the past few years, we have had an increase of students transitioning in from [Committee on Preschool Special Education, CPSE] who have required special classes, so that is the reason for the additional small class we’re adding next year.”
Of the district enrollment as of 2023, approximately 3,744 students, approximately 292 students are classified with an Individualized Education Program. Fourteen of the students are educated in a separate setting outside of the district and 24 of the students are preschool students.
Manuel explained that the district is seeing an increase in the costs of professional services provided for children with special needs, such as behavior intervention and occupational therapy. The services were budgeted at $1.5 million in the current budget and $1.75 million in the 2024-2025 budget.
The district has also been struggling to find a nurse to go on trips and substitute for absent nurses. The district is increasing a nurse to full-time, as they will now serve as a district-wide floater nurse.
Budget presentations will continue, with discussion on general education taking place Feb. 29, a full budget review of revenues and expenditures on March 13 and an adoption of the budget by the Board of Education on March 21.
To view the budget presentations, visit the district website.

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