LITCHFIELD — Voters will decide whether the school board should study the impact of having a tax cap implemented on the school district budget.
During Saturday’s school district deliberative session, the idea of exploring a possible tax cap was discussed.
“People have expressed an interest in starting the conversation,” said Kerry Douglas, a local resident.
A petition warrant article was included on the school warrant asking whether the board should present a separate warrant article next year asking voters to consider adopting a tax cap.
Douglas said the warrant article attempts to bring the school district budget in line with the town budget, which currently has a tax cap in place. She said it is important to have consistency throughout town and school financing, adding the school district returns a surplus of several hundred thousand dollars each year.
School board chairman Brian Bourque said the school budget has increased approximately 6.5 percent over the past three years.
In comparison, he said the town budget has gone up about 23.4 percent in the same time frame.
He also stressed that the school district returns surplus funds to the taxpayers, whereas the town does not.
The original petition warrant article, however, was amended Saturday to instead ask voters whether the school board should study the impact of adopting the provisions of a tax cap. It is an advisory warrant article only.
Voters will also consider whether teachers should receive pay raises over the next three years under a tentative agreement being supported by the board.
The Litchfield Education Association and school officials have agreed to the tentative bargaining agreement for teachers.
f approved by voters at the polls in March, the cost of the union contract will increase by about 3.5 percent in the first two years and about 3.2 percent the final year, or about $1.1 million. The contract runs from 2019 to 2022 and offers step increases and 2 percent pay increases for two of the three years of the contract.
“Our main goal is to attract and retain excellent teachers,” board member Christina Harrison said.
The agreement also increases longevity stipends and changes the health plan to a consumer-driven healthcare plan.
Resident Brion Hodgkins said that while other communities may be paying their teachers more, many of those communities have additional businesses to help offset the taxes.
A proposed operating budget of $22.9 million is included on the school district ballot, which is less than a 1 percent increase over the existing spending plan.