Full-day kindergarten in the Northport-East Northport School District is closer to becoming a cheaper-than-expected reality, after more than a decade of parents fighting for the expansion.
In presenting a $159.7 million budget proposal Monday night, Interim Superintendent Thomas Caramore received wild applause when he announced his plan, including $825,000 to extend kindergarten.
Caramore received more applause when he said it amounted to a $554,343 -- or 0.348 percent -- budget increase year-over-year. There was concern that all-day kindergarten might force the district to bust the state tax cap.
It was "absolutely" made possible by the elimination of nine positions, including six education jobs, Caramore said, along with other trims. It also helped that teacher retirement costs dropped more than $2 million.
District teachers union president Antoinette Blanck said she expects minimal impact on her ranks. "It's really not two teachers that are being cut. It's the equivalent of two teachers," she said. "It's possible that some people will be excessed from full time teaching positions to part time."
Blanck said it's likely attrition will absorb two special ed teaching jobs and two teaching assistant jobs.
"This is a really good example of how this unit of government should work," said David Stein, a parent who helped spearhead community support for full-day kindergarten.
Northport is one of 18 districts in the state, including six on Long Island, that do not have full-day kindergarten, said the state education department.
Each elementary student spot costs the district $80,000 a year. The district will have a total of four new elementary spots in 2015-2016, according to BOCES numbers. BOCES officials said there is also a possibility that as many as seven student spots could be added. Ultimately, the overall impact could be between $320,000 and $880,000, depending on how many new elementary students enroll.
Caramore said district officials do not know how much they will get in "one-shot" state aid for expanding to full-day.
Also unknown is overall state funding, which will increase between $370 million and more than $1 billion statewide.
Caramore said he built his budget on the assumption the district would receive the least possible state aid."You can't gamble on that," he said, adding he was confident the district would come in under the tax cap.