WALES — The proposed $17.8 million school budget for Regional School Unit 4 goes to a workshop session tonight as the board prepares to vote later this month.

The district, which serves Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales, is looking at a budget proposal that’s about 4 percent higher than the current one.

Superintendent James Hodgkin said school administrators are trying to hold the budget increase to 3 percent or less.

A 3 percent increase could mean an 80-cent increase in the property tax rate next year for Litchfield residents.

Litchfield property owners now pay $11.95 per $1,000 worth of property value, so the increase would bring that to $12.75. Owners of a home valued at $100,000, for example, would see their annual school taxes increase from $1,195 to $1,275.

Town Manager Mike Byron said school costs are based on the $333 million assessed value the state assigns to the town. Because Litchfield has not had a townwide property revaluation since 1994, it cannot challenge the state’s figures, he said.

“Sabattus and Wales should be all right,” Byron said. “We’re taking the hit this year. Their increase won’t be nearly as steep as ours.”

The assessed values for those towns are lower.

The school board is scheduled to at 6:30 p.m. today at Oak Hill High School to discuss more trimming, and it will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Oak Hill Middle School High in Sabattus to talk with the boards of selectmen of all three member towns.

“We think we’re inside of $100,000 that we need to cut,” Hodgkin said Monday.

The proposed cuts so far include two special education teaching posts – for a savings of $120,000 – and a plan to try to privatize the district’s busing, for an estimated $200,000 in savings.

The schools’ enrollment stands at 1,450 and is declining, Hodgkin said.

Other potential cuts include one science teaching position at the high school, for almost $47,000; as well as a family consumer science post at $45,000.

The teachers’ association rejected a proposal to take two furlough days as a way of cutting costs.

Some of the smaller decreases proposed include $2,000 for uniforms for Oak Hill High School cheerleaders and $2,000 from the middle school mathematics team.

Hodgkin, who said it’s been challenging to find budget cuts, cautioned that the cuts have yet to be approved.

He anticipates a vote on the budget by the school board on April 25, with a public vote set for June 6 and a referendum at the polls on June 12.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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