Northport

The Northport-East Northport school district has proposed a $163.3 million budget for 2017-18, which includes a slight reduction in staff due to a consistent trend of decreasing enrollment and several projects to improve school grounds and facilities. The budget stays within the school’s state-mandated tax levy cap — increasing the tax levy by 1.57 percent — and is a 1.22 percent increase from last year’s total budget.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The district has presented multiple budget presentations throughout the month of April, which have focused on personnel and benefits; administrative and instructional changes; and buildings and ground changes.

Superintendent Robert Banzer said during the March 16 meeting the district expects to see an enrollment drop of 146 students next year, with the largest decreases in grades four, six, and 11. This has led the district to propose eliminating a teaching position at Fifth Avenue Elementary School, two at Norwood Elementary School, one at Ocean Primary School and two at East Northport Middle School for grade six. The change would result in an increase in class sizes for elementary school classes.

One health position and four positions from the art, music and physical education realm will be removed, as well as a few staff support positions. In total the proposed 2017-18 budget includes funding for seven fewer positions than the current year’s budget.

Several Northport-East Northport residents and parents of students wrote to their board, pleading for class sizes not to be changed.

“I am writing to request that class size remain the same and not be increased,” Colleen and Kevin Mahoney said. “Both [of our] children have had a wonderful education in our district. I believe this to be due to smaller class size. As a teacher, I know first-hand every extra child in a class means less individual attention to others.”

Parents Caryn and Jonathon Ciaio shared the same concerns.

“This is very disappointing and we feel strongly this decision would not be in the best interests of our children or the community,” they said. “We feel very strongly that smaller class sizes has been extremely beneficial for our children and allows for an appropriate balance of time and attention between students.”

Nearly 100 parents of third-grade students at Fifth Avenue Elementary School signed a petition to keep class sizes the same.

The buildings and grounds budget is proposed to decrease by $3.7 million or 13.6 percent from last year’s total. The budget includes plans to repair and reseal tennis courts at East Northport Middle School, repair driveways and sidewalks, replace bleachers at William J. Brosnan School, and more. The 2017-18 transportation budget includes the purchase of one new bus.

Middle schools students will see new educational opportunities if the proposed budget is passed, with plans to create robotics and automation study units for seventh- and eighth-graders; bring advanced manufacturing technology for wood and metal technology education; and the purchase of mini 3-D printers. Robotic electives and engineering courses are also in the budget.

But one Northport resident and former board of education candidate doesn’t think the current budget offers enough STEM opportunities for students.

“Northport-East Northport is trailing behind other districts when it comes to introducing STEM opportunities in the lower grades, especially in middle school,” Shawne Albero said in a letter to the board. She urged the board to offer more robotic clubs for younger students.

For art and performing arts students, the budget includes the purchase of a high performance potter’s wheel, a digital soundboard and wireless microphone system for the high school auditorium.

The board will hold a hearing on the finalized budget May 4, and the community will have the chance to vote May 16.

Harborfields

Harborfields Superintendent Francesco Ianni. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

After submitting and passing a cap-piercing budget last year which required 60 percent support from district residents on election day, this year the Harborfields Central School District has proposed a budget that stays within the state-mandated cap, while maintaining current programs — including the recent addition of full-day kindergarten. The proposed $84.4 million budget is about  $1.6 million more than last year’s total. If passed the tax levy will increase by 0.16 percent. Superintendent Francesco Ianni said at a March 22 meeting the district is expected to receive about $16 million in state aid.

Ianni said the proposed plan maintains class size guidelines, advanced placement and elective courses, music performing groups, athletics and full-day kindergarten. The budget would also add grounds staff for long-term maintenance, expand science research, special education programs, as well as enhancing the curriculum plan and initiatives, including the Harborfields 2.0 Technology Initiative, which is described as a plan to strategically align resources for longer-term sustainability.

“Through this spending plan, resources have been reallocated so that the district is able to enhance certain programs and services without incurring additional costs,” Ianni said in a statement. “There are a lot more science programs going to the high school, and we’re very proud of that,” he said at the March 22 meeting.

Ianni explained expanded science research would include adding three more sections to the introductory class, and the district’s special education program would be extended to make it a true 12-month program, so students no longer have to go off-site during the summer months. He also said Harborfield’s  tech initiative, which supports the integration of more technology throughout the district, would include launching a Google Chromebook pilot program for four ninth-grade teachers to integrate the use of Chromebooks into the curriculum. The devices are laptops powered with Google applications and are ideal for collaborative classroom work. The district hopes to have Chromebooks fully integrated into the school’s curriculum by the 2021-22 school year.

The budget will be adopted April 19, and the public hearing is set for May 9. District residents will have their chance to vote May 16.

Huntington

Huntington school district’s proposed $126.2 million budget would expand enrollment in Advanced Placement and high school elective courses, upgrade facilities, add summer enrichment classes and more. The district’s state-mandated tax levy increase cap is set at 1.86 percent, and the district comes in below that at a 1.42 percent tax levy increase. The total budget calls for a 2.42 percent increase from last year’s total. Unlike other schools in the area, Huntington is experiencing an increasing trend in enrollment, which will help revenue going forward.

Superintendent Jim Polansky. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The largest chunks of cost increases come from instruction and employee benefits. Other budget cost drivers include increased traffic costs, computer technologies, network maintenance and increased utility costs. Construction of a security vestibule at Flower Hill Elementary School is a $100,000 proposed project, and other specific costs outlined in the budget include $30,000 for a teacher’s center, and $25,000 for computer equipment.

Along with the budget, voters must also weigh in on two other propositions the school board has presented. Proposition 2 asks voters to approve release of funds already in the district’s capital reserve fund for completion of state-approved projects. This would have no impact on the tax levy or tax rate, and if the community does not vote for it, the money remains in the capital reserve fund but can’t be used for any other purpose. Proposition 3 asks voters to approve the creation of a new building improvement fund in the capital reserve, with the purpose of completing district-wide renovation and reconstruction projects.

“Use of the district’s building improvement funds have helped considerably to keep 60-year-old buildings in top shape with needed improvements and upgrades, all of which are delineated within a long-term capital plan,” Superintendent James Polansky said. “Establishment of a new fund will allow the district to continue such work responsibly, as well as to keep debt levels at their currently low levels.” This action would also have no impact on the tax levy or tax rate.

Budget adoption is set for April 18, and the public hearing is May 8. Residents will be able to vote for or against the budget and the two propositions May 16.

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