By Janee Law
The Harborfields Board of Education voted 6-1 Tuesday night to approve a cap-piercing $82.85 million school budget that includes a full-day kindergarten program, which the district has never had.
During Tuesday’s meeting, school board Vice President Donald W. Mastroianni was the lone member to vote against the proposed budget. He said a budget that stays within the tax cap would maintain existing programs and services, and put less stress on future budgets.
“In my opinion, a budget that stays within the cap this year would absolutely be an educationally sound and fiscally responsible budget, and it will continue to fully support the excellence of Harborfields,” Mastroianni said. “I cannot support a budget proposed that would pierce the cap this year.”
Some residents disagreed with Mastroianni’s thinking, however.
Jennifer Rogdakis, founder of Facebook group “Fair Start: Harborfields Residents for Full-Day Kindergarten,” said she the “board has been cautious all these years” in not implementing a full-day kindergarten program. Harborfields is the only school district on Long Island without such a program, and one of only nine across the state without it. The district currently has a half-day kindergarten program.
“This year, we can’t be cautious,” Rogdakis said. “I think it’s something our students need.”
The adopted 2016-2017 budget pierces a state-mandated tax cap of 0.37 percent, which is a figure determined by a complex formula that takes into account the previous year’s levy, growth factors and other variables. The tax levy increase in Harborfields approved budget is 1.52 percent.
According to budget figures, full-day kindergarten will cost the district $1.74 million to implement.
Harborfields approved 2016-2017 school budget also calls for other additional programs to be added, including enhancement of co-curricular activities, BOCES cultural arts program, a high school music elective and a special education teacher.
“This is a budget that we support, that we spent a lot of time analyzing, that we believe is the best budget for our community, for our students and for the programs for the years to come,” said Francesco Ianni, the district’s assistant superintendent for administration and human resources.
Harborfields Superintendent Diana Todaro agreed, calling the budget’s approval “a significant day for Harborfields.”
In order for the budget to pass, voters must approve it by supermajority of 60 percent or greater when polls open 2-9 p.m. on May 17 at Oldfield Middle School.
If voters vote the budget down, district officials said they will present an altered budget that does not pierce the cap, but that does cut some programs, including the proposed full-day kindergarten. That scenario, involving an $82.02 million budget, would call for a vote on June 21.
The Harborfields Board of Education will hold a budget hearing at 7:45 p.m. May 10 at Oldfield Middle School.