By Jennifer Corr
On March 13, the Syosset Central School District Board of Education held its second budget information meeting, where is was revealed that the maximum allowable tax levy that was submitted to the New York State Comptroller was 3.16 percent. Given all the inflationary increases, the district’s 2023 through 2024 will likely be right under that number.
“In the budget we are now going through all the line items in the administrative and capital plan and in the next round in our budget we’re looking in terms of what we can tighten on the expenditure side and also looking at the revenue side and where we might bring in some additional revenue,” said Dr. Patricia M. Rufo, the associate superintendent for business.
For example, the district will look into vacated positions in the operations department and any equipment that they can phase or postpone in an effort to save money.
During February’s meeting, the capital and administration sections of the 2023 through 2024 budget were reviewed. To read the Syosset Jericho Tribune’s previous reporting on the February budget meeting, visit syossetjerichotribune.com.
“Tonight, we’re going to take a look at program, benefits and spend a little bit of time on reserves,” Dr. Rufo said.
One of Syosset Central School District’s primary goals for the budget is to maintain the programs and services it offers.
“We have been maintaining our fiscal stability and that has been so important over the last couple of years to ensure we had an appropriate response to the pandemic and that we continue to grow and enhance our program,” Dr. Rufo said. “Our fiscal stability is very important in continuing that as we go through this next challenge of a difficult fiscal environment. And of course we are going to do all this while managing record levels of inflation.”
Health insurance is another cost that has posed challenges for many school districts. According to Dr. Rufo, the cost of benefits in the budget has increased by $5.1 million.
Health insurance is part of the benefits budget, proposed at approximately $68.4 million. This budget is partly supported by reserves in its state retirement, teacher retirement and workers compensation budget lines. In the 2023 through 2024 budget, the district will be using approximately $6 million from the reserves. In this current budget year, it’s been approximately $4.6 million.
The majority of the presentation was spent on the program section of the budget.
“The program section is the largest component of the budget at over 76 percent,” Dr. Rufo said. “Overall, we can see that there’s an increase of 6.71 percent on the entire program section of the budget, the $9.8 million. Staffing adjustments in the secondary schools in the current year and increased support for social and emotional needs of our students are part of the overall increase in this code.”
For example, two additional social work positions at the elementary level that will be added are driving an increase of approximately $229,000.
The co-curricular budget line, which concerns school clubs, is also seeing an increase of $321,655. The money funds stipends for advisors, travel, completions, entry fees and other expenses. The increase reflects contractual salary adjustments for club advisors and chaperones, as well as costs associated with newer competitive clubs like Virtual Enterprises.
“They’re very successful and they’re making it onto regional and national events and there’s travel costs that come with that,” Dr. Rufo said.
Similarly, the athletic budget line is seeing an increase of $325,191. The budget covers coaches, chaperones, entry fees, referee fees, supplies and reconditioning equipment. The increase reflects contractual salary adjustments for coaches, supervision pay, cost for extended seasons, replacement of equipment and the allocation towards flag football, which will be offset by a grant.
Costs in transportation went up too, by approximately $1.8 million.
“The increase reflects both inflationary increases, as well as additional routes that we had to create for regular routes and special ed routes,” Dr. Rufo said. “We also assigned additional monitors to our bus to help deal with some behavior issues, supervision issues… You’ll also see an increase in gasoline.”
The next Board of Education budget information meeting will be held on April 11. At this meeting updates to the budget will be provided, and there will be a review of the revenue and reserves. The budget will be adopted at this meeting as well.
To review the budget and watch the meeting livestream for more information, visit syossetschools.org.
Also at the Syosset Central School District Board of Education meeting:
The Syosset High School cast of Legally Blonde, which held their performances from March 9 to 12, performed “Omigod You Guys” in front of the Syosset Central School District Board of Education on March 13.
Student Alan Huang, who played Emmett Forrest in the musical, provided an introduction for the cast’s performances. He told all who were in attendance that this year was the first time in three years that the theater was allowed to be filled to full capacity.
“This undertaking is made possible due to the support of the PTSA, the administration, the faculty and staff, the community and, of course, family and friends,” Huang said. “We are so grateful to everyone and their commitment in bringing this show to light.”
And almost 1,600 people attended the show across the four performances, which was record breaking for Syosset High School’s theater program.
“I enjoyed this experience so much and I hope through this performance we’re able to convey how powerful and uniting theater can be,” Huang said. “And when we’re on stage we’re not just reciting lines. But, we’re creating stories and we’re fostering genuine emotions that we hope are able to inspire everyone around us just as Elle Woods does.”
Taylor Kyle of the Business Department at Syosset Schools followed with a presentation on Virtual Enterprises, a live global business simulation where students are tasked with creating and managing a business.
“The program provides an opportunity for students to develop valuable, 21st-century skills in entrepreneurship, problem solving, communication, personal finance and technology,” Kyle said. “Instead of entering a classroom each day, our students enter the workplace and collaborate together to make sure their business is successful.”
In the seven years that the program has been offered, Syosset’s program has seen massive success.
Just this year, Syosset High School students are finalists in the National Business Plan Competition this April. Drip, Lunch BX and Thrive Healthy Living were the student groups that found success. Drip creates bracelets out of recycled plastic. Lunch BX provides lunch alternatives for fellow students. Thrive Healthy Living creates gummy bear supplements that can aid mental and physical health. These students presented in front of the Board of Education.