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Harborfields district voters approve full-day kindergarten

Residents of the Harborfield's School District arrive at

Residents of the Harborfield's School District arrive at Oldfield Middle School in Greenlawn on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, to vote on the district's school budget. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Voters in the Harborfields school district approved a $82,859,569 budget Tuesday night that exceeded the state-imposed tax cap and included implementation of full-day kindergarten.

The district in western Suffolk County was the last one on Long Island with a half-day kindergarten program. More than 67 percent of the voters approved the spending plan by a tally of 2,099-1,017 in what was considered a heavy turnout at the polls.

Because the district sought to exceed its state-imposed cap, a supermajority vote of more than 60 percent was needed for budget approval.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” Superintendent Diana Todaro said.

The district anticipates 185 kindergarten students this fall. The program will be housed in the Washington Drive Primary School, a K-2 building, and teachers and staff were included in the budget.

Todaro said the district will make an announcement that kindergarten registration will be extended to make sure parents know they can still register their students.

A group of parents had pushed for the full-day program and the district had formed a committee earlier this school year to study the option. Nine districts in the state offer half-day kindergarten out of about 700 school districts in New York State, 124 of them on Long Island.

The addition of a full-day program was one of the reasons that parent Yuichi Lee, 49, of Greenlawn, voted for the spending plan.

“They’re focusing on what is needed,” he said.

Harborfields’ proposed $82,859,569 budget for 2016-17 represented a 2.96 percent increase from the current $80,473,955. The tax levy will rise by 1.52 percent, from $61,231,280 to $62,163,101.

This increase exceeded the district’s tax-cap limit of 0.37 percent.

School taxes on the average single-family home are slated to increase by 1.59 percent, from $9,685 to $9,839.

The budget also included adding 4.3 teachers and three teaching assistants, and adding extracurriculars, including third-grade string orchestra, theater arts, Italian, and a Board of Cooperative Educational Services cultural-arts program.

Jay Best, 49, of Greenlawn voted for the budget. The tax levy increase of 1.52 percent was reasonable, he said, even though it pierced the district’s cap.

“We have three kids in the district and we take advantage of the programs. It’s why we live here, the schools,” he said.

If voters had defeated the proposed budget, the district had the option of putting forth the same budget for a second vote on the third Tuesday in June, presenting an amended budget or adopting a contingency budget.

If the proposed budget had failed a second time, the district would have had to adopt a contingency budget, in which the tax levy increase would be 0 percent.

With Kay Blough

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