Syosset Central School District Begins Budget Planning

The Syosset Central School District Board of Education held its first 2024-2025 budget meeting on Feb. 12, where the preliminary tax cap of 3.23 percent was announced.
Associate Superintendent for Business Dr. Patricia M. Rufo explained that the district has been under the tax cap every year since it was signed into New York State law in 2011.
This year, as all districts face challenges, Dr. Rufo discussed what she learned at a meeting on Feb. 9 with business officials in Nassau County.
“I would characterize it as a pretty somber meeting in terms of discussing the budget for next year,” Dr. Rufo explained. “There are several factors that are impacting all of us, and then some that are somewhat unique to Syosset.”
Among the factors that are impacting Syosset, as well as other districts, is an increase in health insurance premiums.
“Health insurance alone, at this point, accounts for about $4.3 million in our budget…,” Dr. Rufo said. “We have required contributions to the two state pension systems. At this point, we’re projecting those to be about $1.3-$1.4 million. So those two items alone in our budget, before we even look at any other item, account for about a 2 percent increase budget to budget.”
Inflation is also driving budget increases in terms of contracts, such as transportation and educational supplies.
“And for us, another factor is enrollment growth,” Dr. Rufo explained. “This is not something that is happening county-wide; in fact, there has been a decrease in Nassau County’s overall enrollment, but not for Syosset. We’ve been talking about the challenges on the facilities end; well, it also presents challenges for us on the operating budget.”
In an already difficult budget year, the district may lose $220,000 in Foundation Aid with State Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget, which eliminates the “hold harmless” provision that could lead to millions of dollars in lost Foundation Aid for school districts across the state.
However, the district is receiving another approximately $1.7 million in state funding for Universal Pre-K, which will allocate 309 spots.
“In addition to providing a great service to our community, it also gives us a window into enrollment for the next year,” Dr. Rufo said. “It also enables us to identify those students a year earlier who might need additional services and start providing those services to them.”

Capital Section of Budget
The Capital Codes of the budget, which accounts for 13.7 percent of the budget, are forecasted to increase by $695,959.
“The increase is driven primarily by security cost,” Dr, Rufo said. “This increase is partially offset by a decrease in borrowing costs that we’re projecting for our [Tax Anticipation Notes].”
The preliminary decrease for the Tax Anticipation Notes stands at $109,111 from the current year’s budget.
“While we’re still forecasting a similar interest rate that we had this year, we believe we can reduce the amount we plan to borrow,” Dr. Rufo explained. “We’re looking closely at our cash flow to see if we can squeeze that a little bit more. We do that in consultation with our fiscal advisors and our bond council.”
The $644,766 security increase is driven by a raise for hourly guards and increased security presence at events and during the school days.
There is also an increase in the Operation of Plant budget line, which includes custodial operations, utilities and custodial services.
“One of the changes we have, or additions we have, is an allocation for our turf field grooming as well as an allocation for office space,” Dr. Rufo said. “As you know, we’re experiencing enrollment growth in South Woods and we talked about plans to move some of the offices out to make room for classrooms, so we put an allocation for office space in this code.”
The Transfer to Capital is the same as the current year’s budget, approximately $4.3 million.
However, new projects are on the table, including electrical switchgear replacement at H.B. Thompson Middle School and Syosset High School; district-wide roofing; the office to classroom alterations at South Woods Middle School; district-wide paving and district-wide electrical upgrades.

Administrative Section of the Budget
The administrative section of the budget accounts for 9.3 percent of the budget.
“Overall you can see that the admin section increased about $1 million or 5.4 percent,” Dr. Rufo said. “The increase is attributable to several expenses.”
Increased expenses include a Wi-Fi upgrade project, liability insurance, residency investigations as well as BOCES administrative fees and contractual salary adjustments.
“BOCES allocates their administrative costs to their component districts and just like our district, where we’re subject to increases in [New York State Health Insurance Program] and pension costs, so is BOCES, and that’s what’s responsible for the percentage change,” Dr. Rufo explained.
And because the Board of Education has prioritized residency confirmation, the Personnel Office, which is responsible for residency and registration functions, saw an increase of approximately $212,303, which includes a $55,000 increase for BOCES services.
The Wi-Fi upgrade project will be done through BOCES, which the district will receive aid for in the subsequent year. The project will be done over a span of multiple years.
“Many of our access points are at end-of-life, and this project also enables us to improve our security,” Dr. Rufo said. “It enhances the identification, monitoring and protection of the devices connected to the network. It will enable us to transition from a hardware base to a cloud-based system, and it will enable us to isolate buildings and systems in the event of a cyber attack and that’s increasingly becoming a concern for school districts and to organizations.”
There was also a $22,500 increase in the district meeting budget line to address expenses for the annual budget vote and district election.
“We’ve been discussing a facilities plan for over a year, so we’ve included an additional allocation for a vote in the 2024-2025 school year,” Dr. Rufo said.
At the March 11 budget meeting, the program/instructional budget, revenues and reserves, updates to administrative and capital codes and updates to the tax cap will be discussed.
There will be a Board of Education budget information meeting on April 16, when it will be adopted.
The budget will be available to the public on May 6, and a hearing will follow on May 13 before the annual district election and budget vote on May 21.
To see the budget presentation, visit the district’s website.

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