Residents weigh in on new budgets

LITCHFIELD – Voters will have several large projects to consider at Town Meeting, including a new fire station and a new elementary school.

Residents were able to learn more about the town and school budgets and warrants at a public hearing Thursday night. About 20 residents, elected officials and school and town personnel attended the meeting at Campbell High School.

There was very little public comment on the school and town warrants.

Before the public hearing, a bond hearing was held on a new elementary school and public kindergarten.

The new school, which could hold preschool and grades 1 to 4, would cost about $15.5 million and be built near the middle school. The school would house 32 classrooms, have 92,000 square feet and be two stories tall in some spots.

The School Board is also proposing to start kindergarten, including building four classrooms at the new school, for about $1.1 million.

Taxpayers, however, will have to pay about $283,881 for the program and construction, with the remainder being paid using a state grant.

The district is second in line for the funds, but if the warrant article fails, it will lose its place, School Superintendent Cathy Hamblett said. There is only $2 million left in grant funding available to communities, she said.

The School Board and Budget Committee have disagreed with the proposed operating budget. Voters will be asked to approve a $14.3 million operating budget.

The Budget Committee recommended a bottom-line number for the school. The School Board, however, has voted to not recommend the operating budget.

Board members said the proposed operating budget would mean a reduction in services, School Board member Geoffrey Westervelt said.

The board has also proposed a new contract with the teachers’ union equaling $269,483 in the first year in wages, benefits and stipends. The board also recommended several new positions, including a high school English teacher, high school library paraprofessional, a first-grade teacher and a second-grade teacher.

The town is asking voters to approve a new police officer and some road projects.

The biggest item on the town side is a proposal for a second fire station paid for with a $1.2 million bond.

For the third year in a row, voters will also be asked to approve a town-wide revaluation. The warrant article failed the last two years.

The revaluation would cost a total of $192,500, and voters would be asked to spend $128,000 the first year.

Anne Lundregan can be reached at 594-6449 or