Syosset School District released the first draft of the 2013-14 budget during a workshop Monday.
The $209,000,000 budget as it stands would continue all programs and services while retaining all faculty and staff.
The draft so far includes the following numbers:
- Syosset's calculated 2013-14 budget: $209,224,343
- Syosset's 2013-14 calculated tax levy cap: 3.0796%
- Budget increase in dollars: $11,134,286
- Amount to be taken from reserves: approximately $8,000,000
- Estimated cost increase to taxpayers: approximately $3,000,000
Check out the line by line draft of the budget under PDFs.
"In this horrible economy, it's very hard to [keep the budget at the cap] without cutting jobs," said Council of PTAs President Roberta Dochter, commending the budget's numbers and the timeliness of getting a draft out to the community.
Frederick Gang also commended the board for reinstituting the budget workshops, adding he would like to see the board "go all the way" by republishing and updating documents as the process continues and to publish budget booklets with backup information.
"I see an opportunity here for savings" under energy expenses, said Jimmy Carchietta, who had offered his expertise in energy components at previous meetings. "There are a considerable amount of incentives and savings possible."
The current draft of the budget does not account for energy efficiency projects, which are still being considered.
Board Hears ESCO Presentation
People's Power & Gas presented to the board and added another point to consider regarding energy projects and savings.
PPG is a retail electricity and natural gas supplier that purchases and negotiates rates for different energy sources. Company representatives said they offer power 20 to 30 percent cheaper than LIPA. The company also offers fixed rate power and bill consolidation to lessen confusion. Contracts with the company generally function on an annual basis.
Working with PPG would solve a portion of the issues facing the district's energy costs. The company supplies fuel and electricity, while projects like Johnson Controls or Siemans would create a plan that would deal with repairs and upgrades of equipment.
PPG agreed to perform an analysis of exactly how much savings they could provide. The board did not yet vote to use PPG.
Security Policy Reevaluated
During the audience to the public, resident Robert Gershon asked that a policy surrounding a parent visitation day be revised.
According to Gershon, a parent visitation day at his child's school allowed only one parent to attend instead of two, a policy change that he said upset many families. Gershon said that families should not have to "negotiate" which parent attends such an event, adding children with divorced parents were put under even more undue stress.
The event took place after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, which reportedly added concern for school security.
Gershon asked that the previous policy be reinstated so that both parents can attend the functions.
Superintendent Carole Hankin said that although having a do-over of the visitation day this year would be a challenge, the district can revisit the policy to allow for both parents to attend while maintaining security measures.
Foreign Language Curriculum Discussed
Trustee Josh Lafazan introduced the idea of changing the elementary foreign language curriculum.
Stressing the benefits of learning languages at an early age, Lafazan suggested the curriculum be directed more toward language and pull back on the cultural aspect of the program.
Several trustees said it was not their place to officially dictate curriculum.
"That's a really slippery slope that you don't want to start down," said Trustee Marc Herman, adding it would be inappropriate in that case for the board to make a decision. "We don't want to be in a position where we're dictating whether or not to read Tom Sawyer."
Instead, Lafazan was encouraged to instead reach out to elementary PTAs curriculum committees and parents.
Legal Council Discussed
Citing the unavailability of information and resources, specifically surrounding a postponed finance committee meeting, Trustee Chris DiFilippo suggested an independent council be brought in for district labor contracts and board matters.
According to DiFilippo, the first meeting of the finance committee, which was scheduled for Monday before the budget session, was held up partially because of delays in getting legal information needed for the meeting.
The conversation turned toward the amount of emails being sent to council from the board and whether or not it was an acceptable amount of time to have questions answered. While some trustees had luck speaking with the New York State Board of Education council, the ability to get in touch with district council was still an issue.
DiFilippo said he would be willing to wait until the summer when the district would be capable of interviewing new firms and potentially switching to new representation.