Highlights from this week's Board of Education meeting:
Before Assistant Superintendent Patricia Rufo reviewed budgetary updates, Board President Michael Cohen took a moment to commend the work staff and board members had done in formulating the budget.
Though it is still a work in progress, Cohen said he was proud that it allowed students "virtually all the opportunities they are accustomed to" with "no one out of a job come September."
Check the attached PDF for a draft of the 2013-14 budget or visit the Syosset School District website finance page.
"Everyone remembers what the summer was like…This board -- all nine of us -- has done a terrific job. It's the nine of us working together," he said, adding later that Monday's meeting was one of the best they had yet.
Calling the budget an educational plan for the district, Superintendent Carole Hankin also praised faculty, staff, parents, and board members for their efforts in formulating the budget, which came in at the cap.
"We've been careful to make sure we had reserves -- you can think of it as your bank account -- and we've saved where we can so we have them, and we haven't had a lot of ups and downs like a lot of districts around us," she said.
Staff Raises Questioned
Resident Fred Gang asked why the budget line accounting for faculty and staff salaries had increased approximately 6.75 percent. Saying that the increase fell far above other municipalities whose raises are usually only about 1.5-2 percent, he suggested the rest of the funds be put toward reducing the budget or be placed into reserves.
Cohen specified after the meeting that the raises teachers get are not simply contractual raises from the district, but also include state-regulated step increases and personnel changes.
While faculty members receive a reported 2.75 percent raise in their paychecks each year as stipulated in their contracts, step increases account for about 2 percent, depending on the faculty member's professional degrees, training, years in the work force.
Staff members hired mid-school year that were not previously accounted for in the budget can also skew the numbers year to year, he explained.
Cohen said a breakdown would be reported in the days following the meeting.
While on the topic of salaries, Cohen said that although extending the wage freeze for a third consecutive year existed, it wouldn't be fair to continue it.
"These people have houses and pay taxes and have car payments too. We couldn't have a freeze forever, we couldn't do that to them," he said.
"You see a big line on teacher salaries. Well that's what we do. That's what we spend money on. And that's what it should be," Hankin said at the meeting. "Those years [during the freeze] were tough times. This year, we're able to give them raises and stay at the cap. I think that's pretty good."
Contracts are due to expire in 2014 so renegotiations will begin during the 2013-14 school year.
Three-Year Budget Booklet Coming
A line-by-line budget booklet comparing previous and future expenses will soon be available to the community. After resident Fred Gang again requested the booklet, Trustee Chris DiFilippo officially motioned that one be produced for the community.
Residents Wendy Levitt and Susan Parker echoed the request, saying historical data would prove useful to compare budgeted line items to actual spending.
The booklet, as it had in previous years, will display and compare three total years including the 2011-12 expenses, the current 2012-13 expenses, and the proposed expenses for 2013-14.
MSG Varsity, Fios Update
After Trustee Josh Lafazan requested an update, Hankin announced that Verizon Fios was officially on board to begin broadcasting Syosset District events. MSG Varsity's agreement, she said, was still in the works as the broadcasters finalize legal documentation of workers that would collaborate with students.
Community to Weigh in on Energy
Lafazan renewed his request that community members be brought in to collaborate on the many energy proposals being considered by the district.
Hankin said she supported the idea, adding district architect John Grillo can take on a role in the group helping them report back on updates. The board agreed the group would not have their hands in the project and would solely exist to offer advice.