LITCHFIELD — The school portion of the tax rate is significantly lower than anticipated, despite the approval of a controversial teachers’ contract earlier this fall.
The town’s tax rate was finalized by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration last month at $23.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
According to Corey Izbicki, the school district’s business administrator, the school portion of the tax rate accounts for $15.35. This represents a 20-cent increase over last year, or about a 1.3 percent jump.
Originally, the school district was anticipating about a 63-cent hike over the prior year, Corey told the school board recently.
“We came in at 20 (cents) — this is thanks to the additional state funding we are getting, bringing our adequacy aid back to full,” he explained.
Superintendent Mike Jette said the new tax rate will result in an estimated $60 increase for homeowners with a house assessed at about $300,000. Initially, with the new teachers’ contract approved, that tax increase could have been closer to $100.
“We really landed in the right spot,” said Jette. “We have done the right thing for our employees. We are in a much better position to attract and retain quality teachers going forward, and the tax burden was relatively minimal.”
The new teachers’ agreement resulted in a cost increase of $854,737 throughout the course of the three-year contract. The contract with Litchfield teachers includes a 1 percent salary increase for year one of the contract, a 1.5 percent pay hike for year two and a 1.75 percent pay raise for the third year.
Despite the additional funds for teacher salaries, Izbicki said the school district is also now able to reduce the budget by $264,000 after learning it will have no increase in health insurance rates for the next year.
“Clearly, we are managing our insurance well, as a group,” explained Jette.
Although school officials initially budgeted for a 10 percent increase in health insurance costs, which would have been the worst-case scenario, the superintendent said the district is fortunate to have no rate increase, as well as a premium holiday resulting in an additional reduction.
Voters in March originally rejected the teachers’ contract, however school officials sought a special election to allow voters to decide whether a newly revised bargaining agreement should be approved in October; the court granted the request and voters ultimately supported the bargaining agreement with a vote of 624-520.