Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 12 March 2010 00:00
At the Monday, March 8 Syosset Central School District Board of Education’s preliminary budget meeting for the 2010-2011 school year, scholarly ambition was checked with more than a little bit of frugality. While no programs have been cut, the proposed figure of $188,841,461, which is a 2.74 percent increase over the previous year’s budget, represents the lowest budget-to-budget increase seen in the district for 20 years.
Superintendent Carole Hankin described the proposed budget as being “as low as it could get without hurting any child in any area.” Accordingly, there was no indication from the figures proposed that the children will see any difference; the few areas where the cuts were noticeable were unrelated to curriculum or the school environment in general.
One of the only areas where the board claimed to be cutting back was Continuing Education, a program that was intended to pay for itself through tuition fees, but has instead become a cost to the district. The proposed budget for the Continuing Education program next year is $147,423, down from $156,458 this year.
While guiding members of the community through 53 pages of proposed costs, Hankin frequently made distinctions between decisions that were made by the board and state-mandated programs and fees that they had no control over. While the board has received some criticism for not trimming the proposed budget further, it should be noted that many of the items included in the budget were completely non-negotiable; some, like the MTA tax, are of controversial legitimacy, but will need to be paid regardless. It is unclear whether or not the school will receive back any of the nearly $400,000 dollars it will pay for the MTA tax in particular.
As per New York State policy, the budget was split into three categories: Administrative, Program and Capital. Program, which includes teacher salaries, athletics, clubs and many other services that students utilize directly, takes up the grand majority of the budget, with nearly $150 million in costs. Capital, which includes custodial services, security and other things relating to school property weighed in at nearly $21 million. The Administrative category cost the district approximately the same amount as capital, with significantly lowered costs noted in the insurance category due to a change in brokers.
Despite cutting back, the board had no apologies for its commitment to keep Syosset students on the cutting edge of technology. The cost of computer-assisted instruction went up by $40,000, primarily because computers in the elementary school will need to be replaced as they become outdated. Because of the way the budget is sub-divided, it’s difficult to tell how much the district will spend on computers and other technology overall, but the figure is presumed to be substantial. However, Hankin reiterated that the technological edge is part of what makes Syosset schools so desirable to prospective home-buyers, thus keeping property values high and justifying the additional expense to the taxpayer.
Categories that actually received significantly more funding than previous years included athletics, which needed to be augmented to keep pace with the number of participating students, Special Education, and Guidance services.