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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Selectman candidate Frank Byron campaigns with his dog, Bailey during the Town Election Tuesday, March 8, 2011, at Campbell High School in Litchfield.




  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Election official John Regan looks on as Amy Bois drop off her ballot during the Town Election Tuesday, March 8, 2011, at Campbell High School in Litchfield.




  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Selectman candidate Frank Byron campaigns with his dog, Bailey during the Town Election Tuesday, March 8, 2011, at Campbell High School in Litchfield.




Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Litchfield voters OK district budget, axing 27 school jobs

LITCHFIELD – Voters had a big but almost inevitable decision to make Tuesday, overwhelmingly approving a School District budget that eliminates 27 jobs.

Voters passed the operating budget for next school year, 1,055 to 280. They did so taking into consideration that school officials had long said they had no choice but to make the cuts with an impending loss in revenue.

The cuts were included in the $19.65 million operating budget. If that budget hadn’t passed, the default budget that would have kicked in was higher, at $20.78 million.

Unless the state changes the distribution of education aid before July, the equivalent of 27.5 full-time jobs, including 12.5 teaching positions, will be lost when the next school year starts.

“I’m still hoping a miracle will happen,” resident Tiffeny Mackinnon said of the possibility that increased state aid could restore some positions.

Like many residents, Mackinnon went to the polls with the realization that the district had to make deep cuts.

The ballot also featured a contested race for School Board. Voters removed board member Cindy Couture and went with newcomer Patricia D’Alleva, 693-612.

A total of 1,379 voters cast ballots, out of Litchfield’s more than 6,000 registered voters.

Approval of the operating budget means the School District will have to eliminate the equivalent of 27.5 full-time jobs. The loss of an estimated $2.14 million in state aid next school year meant the district had no choice but to eliminate the jobs, school officials said.

There is a possibility Litchfield might get some state aid back if Gov. Lynch’s proposed budget gets full legislative approval. Until then, the district will proceed as if the jobs will be gone.

The School Board crafted the budget – and decided which positions to cut – over several months of meetings; the municipal Budget Committee had final say on the proposal before voters did.

School officials said they tried to spread out job cuts evenly throughout the district to minimize the pain at each school.

In the next fiscal year, Litchfield will take perhaps the largest proportional loss in state education aid of any municipality. The estimated $2.14 million loss in state aid offsets any other revenue gains the School District could see, creating an overall $1.73 million revenue shortfall, school officials said.

Voters also approved, 791-560, a separate proposal for cost-of-living raises for nonunion positions.

Even though the proposed operating budget is $1.05 million less than the current one, taxes will still rise.

The school portion of the tax bill will increase 83 cents per $1,000 in assessed property valuation with the passage of the two ballot items.

About 4 p.m. Tuesday, the box that holds the vote-counting machine had a malfunction and failed to separate out write-in ballots. As a result, election officials had to start over and count ballots by hand.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com