Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 22 April 2011 00:00
At the beginning of Thursday, April 14, Syosset School District’s proposed budget was $192,561,637, a 1.97 percent increase over last year’s budget. However, by the time Superintendent Dr. Carole G. Hankin announced the budget to the community at that evening’s budget work session at South Woods Middle School, some last-minute savings had lowered it to $192,353,912, a 1.86 percent increase- the lowest in 21 years, said Hankin.
Furthermore, the superintendent explained that the only dramatic changes in the budget were due to teachers and administrators voluntarily giving up their pay raises, cutting $3.3 million from the budget- all programs are currently slated to remain unchanged.
“Our Syosset schools next year will have every wonderful program they have this year…there’ll be nothing changed for them,” said Hankin.
Furthermore, Hankin stated that if the budget were to fail, the $3.3 million in raises that district personnel had given up would be added back to the budget, leading to raised taxes.
“In a case that’s probably unheard of, a failed budget increases the taxes- because once you put that $3.3 million in, we’re already in austerity. So that increases our budget by that amount, the 1.86 [percent] increase becomes 3.61 [percent], and we would have to, at that point, look at program changes and personnel changes,” said Hankin.
Members of the board asked questions about changes to the budgets in areas like instructional technology and guidance, to which Hankin responded that the changes were minor- due to normal changes like a new employee replacing one who had retired at a higher rate of pay- and would not affect district students.
Judged from applause, the proposed budget met with approval from the crowd at South Woods, which included many teachers and district employees, however, there was no public participation segment; district residents who wish to discuss their concerns about the budget will have the opportunity to do so at the public budget hearing, to be held on May 9.
Budget season has been a contentious time in Syosset for the past several years, with some residents expressing their concerns at the budget hearings that they do not believe the district has done enough to lower costs in tough economic times. It remains to be seen whether the 1.86 percent budget-to-budget increase that the board approved on April 14 will meet the approval of residents who have been critical of the district’s budgets in recent years.
Last year, the budget-to-budget increase for the 2010-2011 budget was 2.74 percent.
The public budget hearing will take place on Monday, May 9 at the South Woods Middle School Auditorium; the budget vote will be held on Tuesday, May 17 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at all district elementary schools. The details of the proposed budget- similar to the handout distributed at the work session, but with revised numbers- is now available on the district website at www.syosset.k12.ny.us.