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Proposed school budget hits $21 million in Litchfield

LITCHFIELD - Voters are encouraged to attend Wednesday's deliberative session for the Litchfield School District, where the proposed budget and warrant articles will be reviewed and debated.

The budget committee is recommending an operating budget of nearly $21 million for the fiscal year 2013-2014. If approved, it represents an increase of less than 1.19 percent over the current operating budget, according to Business Administrator Steve Martin.

Superintendent Brian Cochrane focused on four main objectives when developing his recommended budget, including special education, technology, common core standards and building and grounds. Cochrane recommended an increase of more than $800,000. However, Martin stressed Monday that the budget committee ultimately cut more than $500,000 in cuts from the original proposed budget.

"Budget increases outside of the district's control, including the New Hampshire Retirement System's rate increase of $229,591, the transportation contracted rate increase of $29,538 and the budgeted health insurance rate increase of $19,441 were all absorbed by reductions throughout the budget," says a memo written by Martin.

The proposed budget also includes the hiring of several additional special education teachers and paraprofessionals needed to meet individual education plan requirements in 2014, he said.

The school district is anticipating a reduction of about $811,000 in revenue next year, the major contributor being a decrease in the state education adequacy grant, according to the memo.

If the budget is approved by voters at the polls next month, the school portion of the tax rate will increase from $12.79 to $14.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

If adopted, school property taxes (local and state) would be about $5,277 for a home assessed at $320,000, which is up about $430 from the current rate. A home assessed at $240,000 would see an increase from $3,636 to $3,958, or a $322 hike.

Voters are also being asked to support $110,000 for salary increases associated with a two-year collective bargaining agreement reached between the Litchfield School District and the Litchfield Education Association. A separate warrant article will ask voters to authorize the retention of year-end unassigned general funds for the purpose of emergency expenditures, or to reduce the tax rate - up to 2.5 percent of the fiscal year's net assessment.

On Wednesday, residents will have the opportunity to amend all of the warrant articles before they are placed on the ballot for the March 12 election. Wednesday's deliberative session will begin at 7 p.m. at Campbell High School, 1 Highlander Court.

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