LITCHFIELD — Officials are working to trim the annual budget to offset large increases from the school and public works departments ahead of the upcoming Town Meeting.

Citing rising costs across the board — including to federally mandated programs — and various construction needs, Regional School Unit 4 requested $500,000 more than it did last year. The district serves Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales.

The largest increase in town expenses comes from a $250,000 request for a new plow truck, which Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said Tuesday is a necessity.

“We haven’t ruled out looking for a used truck instead of purchasing a new one, but the consideration is that new trucks ordered now are expected to be available about two years from now,”  Weissenfels said in an email Tuesday evening, “and that there is a great deal of competition for used trucks. Purchasing a new plow truck would allow us to move our 2005 single axle International to the reserve slot and sell or junk our remaining two trucks (a 2001 and a 1998).”

While the overall budget proposal is $3,128,462 — roughly $355,000 or 13% more than the previous year — the Select Board is attempting to keep the increase at 10% or lower, Weissenfels said.

“Right now, as it stands, we are looking at a budget that is currently higher than that, and the board will be looking at ways to reduce those costs,” he said.

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The town is requesting a workshop with Superintendent Andrew Carlton and the RSU 4 board of directors to discuss the budget.

Increases in heating, electricity, telephone, maintenance supplies, labor and health insurance, as well as $20,000 for a new kitchen floor at Oak Hill Middle School that must be installed because of a food service audit; $30,000 for a new tractor at the middle school; and $17,000 to replace a non-functional boiler, also at the middle school, all factored into the higher-than-usual request, according to a draft budget on the district’s website. The cost of an instructional technology program required under Every Student Succeeds Act also is jumping from $4 per student to $12 per student, for instance.

The Select Board on Monday set Saturday, June 18, as the date for the Town Meeting. Local elections will take place four days earlier, on June 14, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A location for the Town Meeting has not been finalized, but Weissenfels said they are in the process of securing the Carrie Ricker School on Richmond Road.

The town is looking to fill one seat on the Select Board, one on the RSU 4 board, three seats on the budget committee, and three Litchfield Academy trustee seats. Each position has a three-year term. Weissenfels said anyone interested in running needs to return nomination papers, with at least 25 signatures from local residents, by April 14.

He said the town would like to see greater attendance and participation at the meeting this year.

“There are a lot of people who come every year, but it would be good to get some fresh voices,” he said. “If anybody has an opinion, it would be super helpful to have them in the budget meetings we’re holding now.”

Until the Town Meeting, Weissenfels said the Select Board will continue to work toward the goal of keeping expenses below 10%.

“There are still some estimated bills such as the county tax that we hope to get numbers for, but we have a couple more budget meetings to go, and I am confident we can accomplish that goal,” he said.


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