Sewanhaka announces new superintendent, proposes 2024-2025 budget

Sewanhaka announces new superintendent, proposes 2024-2025 budget
Sewanhaka High School, as seen in Floral Park. (Photo courtesy of Future Engineers)

The Sewanhaka Central High School District announced the appointment of Regina Agrusa as the next superintendent of schools and presented a proposed 2024-2025 budget of $255,707,308 with a 2.47% tax levy increase at a meeting Wednesday night.

Agrusa has been a steady district employee for 27 years, starting as a school counselor at Elmont Memorial High School in 1997.

“She has had glowing evaluations and recommendations,” William Leder, president of the board of education, said. “It’s my honor to introduce our soon to be new superintendent, Regina Agrusa.”

The audience erupted into cheers and applause, standing as Agrusa took to the podium to share a message of gratitude.

“I have loved every year and every opportunity the Sewanhaka school district have provided me with,” Agrusa said.

Agrusa will assume the position July 1.

Kevin O’Brien, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, presented the 2024-2025 draft budget.

“[The budget draft] doesn’t include a lot of reductions and eliminations and Kevin, I give you all the credit for that,” Thomas P. Dolan, interim superintendent, told O’Brien.

The proposed budget of $255,707,308 includes a budget-to-budget increase of $11,015,856 or 4.5%. The 2023-2024 budget was $244,691,452.

State aid is projected to increase by $1,325,000 for a total of $72,925,547 in the 2024-2025 budget.

Last year, the district state aid jumped by more than $13 million. The 2023-2024 state aid was $71,600,480 and the 2022-2023 state aid was $57,872,971.

The district is set to receive a higher state aid increase than initially proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, from a 1.57% increase to 1.6%, according to the state budget adopted nearly three weeks late Saturday.

It is unclear how this change in state aid will affect the proposed budget.

The proposed tax levy is $166,242,000, representing a 2.47% tax levy increase. This tax levy increase just reaches the tax cap, but does not go over, O’Brien said.

The 2023-2024 tax levy was $162,234,358.

Administrative costs are projected to increase 4.77% or $1.4 million, O’Brien said.

Program costs are projected to increase 3.76% or $6,998,000, O’Brien said. These costs will go toward the expansion of dual enrollment course offerings, focused support in the English as a new language program, an updated health curriculum and more.

Capital costs are projected to increase 9.03% or $2.6 million, O’Brien said. These costs will cover projects including bathroom renovations, new sidewalks, door replacements, new fences, gym ceiling repairs, a new library carpet and more across the district.

Administration is already planning ahead to next year, when they might increase their use of reserves and fund balances and issue retirement incentives to eligible employees, O’Brien said.

“Given some of the pressures we confronted, it is a sound budget that continues our mission and stays below the tax cap,” Dolan said.

The board will hold a budget hearing May 8. Residents are set to vote on the budget May 21.

Board members said they are still debating a new mascot to replace the Sewanhaka High School’s Indian mascot.

In April 2023, the New York Board of Regents voted to ban school districts from using Native American mascots, team names, logos and depictions. School districts with Native American mascots are required to make a change by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The Sewanhaka board voted in May to discard the high school’s mascot.

Board member said they are still gathering input from community members on possible new mascots.

“We have just a bit more work to do. However, I am confident that we will be able to announce a recommended new mascot for Sewanhaka High School at our May 28 meeting,” Dolan said.

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