6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Syosset High School, H.B. Thompson Middle School and Robbins Lane Elementary School.
The district proposes a $215,585,452 budget for 2015-16, a 1.34 percent increase from the current $212,730,695. The local tax levy would increase 0.91 percent, from $190,299,054 to $192,035,706.
The increase is below the state's tax cap of 1.56 percent, so a simple majority is required to approve the budget. The district said the dollar amount of school taxes on an average single-family home this year and last was not available, nor was the percentage increase per house.
District officials said they have adequate reserve funds and do not plan to reduce staff.
Teachers will get a 1 percent increase in salary and a one-half step increase, officials said.
Incumbents Christopher DiFilippo and Joshua Lafazan, along with Andrew Feldman, Seth Hart, Dale D. Predmore and Bill Weiner, are seeking three at-large seats; Alan Resnick is not seeking re-election. DiFilippo and Predmore are running as a slate. So too are Lafazan, Feldman and Hart. Weiner is running alone. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: DiFilippo, 61, a Syosset resident for 33 years and the father of an 11th-grader in the high school, is an information technology project manager who has worked as a contractor for Honeywell, Bank of America and many other large organizations; he worked for Chase Bank for 25 years. DiFilippo has served as a Federal Emergency Management Agency reservist for the past year and is on call for information technology deployment in a national emergency. He graduated from St. John's University in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in business marketing and attended New York University graduate school. A volunteer emergency medical technician in the Syosset Volunteer Fire Department, he also is a member of its recruitment committee. DiFilippo is a member of St. Edwards Church and of the Syosset Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, among other groups. His son, Matthew DiFilippo, 23, a student at Nassau Community College, is a part-time custodial worker in the school district.
ISSUES: DiFilippo said the board should examine the school district's academic and sports offerings -- and make sure its 60-year-old buildings are safe and efficient. "We need to assess what may need to be replaced in those buildings to keep them in good standing," he said. The district already has agreed to bring in a professional to examine the structures, but they have not hired anyone to do the work. As for academics, "Our instructional programs need to be reassessed and evolve accordingly," he said. "We can't sit still." In sports, DiFilippo said the district -- including the taxpayers -- might want to consider turf fields, possibly at the high school. "That might be next year's referendum," he said.
BACKGROUND: Feldman, a Woodbury resident for 16 years, is a certified financial planner who opened his own firm 11 years ago. Before that, he worked for JPMorgan Chase. He has two children in the district; one is a student at Thompson Middle School while the other attends Syosset High School. Feldman has coached children's community soccer, baseball and basketball teams for 13 years. He served on the board of the Michigan State University Greater New York Alumni Association for nine years and is a member of Simchat Halev. He is running on a slate with Lafazan and Hart.
ISSUES: Feldman said the district should review all of its contracts in search of better rates. It also should form committees consisting of community residents with various areas of expertise to make sure they are getting the best value in all areas of spending. The district also should find alternative revenue sources, including the use of credit cards where money is generated for the school district. He said, too, that Syosset should reduce its energy costs and carbon footprint. He also would like a later start time for the high school. "Studies show children do better with more sleep," he said.
BACKGROUND: Lafazan, 21, a Cornell University student in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, was elected to the Syosset board at age 18 while he was still in high school. He openly challenged then-superintendent Carole Hankin on several issues, including her salary, which was once one of the highest among Long Island school administrators. Hankin has since retired. Lafazan is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Safe Ride Syosset, which provides transportation for high school students who have been drinking. He's also a board member of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence as well as the Nassau County Youth Board. He serves with the Varna Volunteer Fire Department in upstate New York and is a referee and coach for the Syosset Basketball League. He returns home from Cornell for every board meeting and plans to run for New York State office upon graduation in 2016.
ISSUES: Lafazan said Syosset must rein in its finances. It should review each of its contracts to cut wasteful spending and save money on energy by investing in green technology, including LED lighting, which will have a short return on investment, he said. In addition to cost savings, Syosset also should identify other sources of income, he said. One possibility is for the district to establish a website that would redirect Internet users to other sites at a fee. Another is for the school district to pair with a local credit union to create a Syosset credit card through which some money would go back to the district. "I love Syosset," Lafazan said. "This town has given me everything. But if we don't get school taxes under control, millennials will never be able to live on Long Island and the whole system fails."
Dale D. Predmore
BACKGROUND: Predmore, who earned an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1991, is a senior legal counsel for Swiss Re America Holding Corp. He is running on a slate with DiFilippo. Predmore, a 20-year Syosset resident, has two children in the district, one at Berry Hill Elementary and the other at Southwoods Middle School. He's spent two years on the Syosset Central School Board's Citizen's Advisory Committee for Finance and is a member of SEPTA (Special Education Parent Teacher Association). He's an active member of the Syosset Volunteer Fire Department, where he has served for nearly 10 years. He's also a member of St. Edwards Church.
ISSUES: He said the first thing he'd want to do if elected is help the community better understand the budget process. "It's always important for taxpayers to know where their money is being spent," he said. "We see budget increases every year. The school has to do more with less. Continuous tax increases aren't sustainable." He said, too, that the district needs to make sure all of its programs are properly funded and it must learn "to do more with less."
BACKGROUND: Hart, 45, is a nine-year resident of the district. He is a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley. He has two children in the district, one at Walt Whitman Elementary and the other at Thompson Middle School. He has coached Syosset basketball, lacrosse and baseball for nearly a decade. Hart is a member of Temple Sholom. He is running on a slate with Lafazan and Feldman.
ISSUES: Hart's first priority would be to improve students' access to technology, especially as it relates to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. "I want to provide every kid in our district with a Chromebook or an iPad to catch up with other districts that have been doing this and have had a high degree of success with it," he said. He added that the district also should consider numerous measures to bring costs down, including teaming up with surrounding schools to negotiate better rates for goods and services. Hart also wants to increase financial literacy among students, perhaps by bringing in members of the finance community to talk to them before they head off to college and begin to handle their own money -- including credit cards. "I think that would really go a long way," he said.
BACKGROUND: Weiner, 52, an 11-year resident of Syosset, is a senior technology manager with Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. His wife is a teacher in the Freeport School District. He is chair of the school district's SEPTA budget committee and of the South Woods Middle School PTSA school and community committee. He is a member and previous chair of the Syosset Board of Education citizens advisory committee for finance and was a co-chair for the Robbins Lane PTA budget committee until last year. He has two children in the district, one in South Woods Middle School and another in Robbins Lane Elementary.
ISSUES: Weiner said the school district should limit the amount of time devoted to preparing students for Common Core-based tests. He said he wants the district to push back on the reforms, many of which are mandated by law and are tied to teacher evaluations. "Common Core has limited the creativity our teachers have," he said. Syosset has had a reputation of excellence before the new standards but the change has put that reputation at risk, he said. Weiner said he believes the district is on the right track financially but that it must remain vigilant in this area, constantly scrutinizing the budget. "We are in a very strong financial position," he said. "But this needs continuous oversight."