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Litchfield voters to consider expanding kindergarten

Union Leader Correspondent

January 15. 2018 9:46PM

LITCHFIELD — Voters will decide whether full-day kindergarten will be implemented this fall in Litchfield.

A warrant article is being proposed that will ask voters to approve nearly $520,000 to expand the kindergarten program at Griffin Memorial Elementary School from a half-day program to a full-day program.

The school board and the budget committee are both recommending that residents support the initiative.

Initially, the school board put funds in the proposed operating budget to cover the costs of full-day kindergarten. But the budget committee removed the funding from the budget, which prompted a separate warrant article.

“We are estimated to have 61 kindergarten students,” said Cindy Couture, chairman of the local budget committee. If full-day kindergarten is supported at the polls in March, Couture said an additional 10 more students may be interested in the expanded program.

During a public hearing on the proposed school district budget and warrant articles, Couture said last week that there are some one-time costs associated with the all-day kindergarten program.

Specifically, Couture said four modular classrooms would be needed, and additional furniture would need to be purchased.

Superintendent Jim O’Neill said the state requires full-day kindergarten classrooms to be at least 1,000-square feet and have an accessible restroom.

“We don’t have the space inside the GMS facility, at this point in time, to house the students,” he said. School officials are recommending that four modular classrooms be leased to house the all-day kindergarten students, according to O’Neill, who said the newer modulars are designed to fit together and appear as one small building instead of four individual buildings.

Of the $519,731 needed to implement the all-day kindergarten program, there is state aid available to help offset those costs by about $96,000, according to officials; the state will provide an additional $1,100 for every full-time kindergarten student.

If the warrant article is OK’ed by voters, it would increase the tax rate by about 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For a home assessed at $350,000, that would equate to a $169 increase on the school portion of their tax bill.

“Yes, the state is going to pay more for full-day kindergarten, but it is not mandated,” said former selectman Ralph Boehm.

Boehm said his property taxes increased more than 10 percent last year.

“They way they are showing the numbers here it is going to be another 10 percent,” said Boehm, adding school enrollment is declining. “Something is wrong.”

The school district’s budget being recommended by the budget committee is $22,342,614, which would increase the school portion of the tax rate by 63 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation; For a home assessed at $350,000, that would equate to an increase of $222.

“If all (warrant) articles pass there would be a projected tax impact of $1.22,” said Couture, adding that would equal an increase of about $427 on a house valued at $350,000.

Education Litchfield Local and County Government

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