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Hudson~Litchfield News

Volume 21 Number 5 August 20, 2010 22 Pages New GMS Playground Installed

Selectmen Terminate Firefighters’ 24-Hour Shifts

In a letter to IAFF Local 3154, Hudson selectmen have notified the Hudson firefighters that they are terminating the recently approved 24-hour shift rotation trial. The letter dated August 18 was signed by Selectmen Chairman Ken Massey and sent to Union President Erich Weeks. Weeks advised that the rank and file

have requested a meeting at the August 24 scheduled selectmen’s meeting and requested this employment situation be heard in public. Residents who have interest in this matter should plan to

attend the meeting. The selectmen’s actions seemed to

have resulted from an August 4 letter from Fire Chief Shawn Murray to the union relating to earned time accrual problems for fire dispatchers. When contacted, Weeks stated that the firefighters have adjusted to the 24- hour shifts instituted on July 1 in a very positive manner, and that the 24-hour shifts are a benefit to the taxpayers and firefighters alike.

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PERMIT NO. 33 Postal Customer

by Lynne Ober It started as a community effort and ended with a

beautiful new playground that drew rave reviews from the expert “Playgound Testers.” Matthew Dexter, 7, and his friend and co-playground tester, Cameron Feely, also 7, declared that the new playground was “way, way better” than the old playground. The GMS Playground Committee, chaired by Kathleen

Follis, began work in the spring. Through successful fundraising, they were well on their way to replacing the old, unusable playground equipment when the School Board voted to use surplus funds to complete the purchase of the new playground. Finally, the equipment began to arrive and GMS

Principal Bo Schlichter stored it in the gym. Last Thursday, the vendor arrived to begin the installation. “We were so lucky to have Rick Lascelles come over

with his tractor,” said Follis. “He cleared off the ground so that we had a place to work. We never would have completed the installation in one day if Rich hadn’t been here with his tractor.

we got it all installed in one day.” While the vendor dug holes for the supporting beams,

the equipment was brought out from the gym and volunteers began assembling it. “We had such a wonderful group of volunteers,” said Follis. “They had enthusiasm, were willing to jump in and get really dirty, and they made

In fact, the vendor was amazed that

it happen. The vendor said we were the best group of volunteers that they had worked with this year.” Holes were dug, concrete mixed and poured, and lots

of levels were used to ensure that everything that was supposed to be straight really was. Finally, at the end of a long day, the playground equipment was assembled. Martha Dexter, Kathleen Follis, Rebecca Feely, Guy Tremblay, Rich and Maureen Lascelles, Derek Barka, Laura Gandia, Dean Powers, Amy Rossi, Laura Alley, Steve Oswald, Robert Ladd, Jack Schiener, Heather Buxton, Bo Schlichter, Kathy Dyer, Joe Rabral, Roger Giglio, and John Follis were the crew who assembled and installed the playground. The concrete cured for two days and then on Saturday,

the volunteers returned to spread the mulch. By 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, the playground was ready to use by the expert “playground testers.” The kids trying out the new playground tried everything—the climbing wall, the slide, the monkey bars, and all the balance activities. Cameron said that he even tried out the mulch when

he dived off the monkey bars. “It’s soft—it’s good,” he grinned. According to Chairman Follis, the next step is to think

about expanding this playground. “It is built so that modules can be added onto it. We’ll have to work on that next.”

Living Without Two Million Dollars

by Lynne Ober Litchfield’s School District will suffer a two

million dollar loss in state transition aid and the budget that they are currently crafting must deal with that loss. The choice is to cut and keep the tax rate nearly the same or ignore the loss of revenue and just raise taxes. Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler and the Board have chosen to work on cuts and to keep the tax rate nearly the same. When Londonderry appealed to other school

districts to join their lawsuit against the state, Litchfield did so, but the outcome of that successful lawsuit has had major negative impacts on the taxpayers of Litchfield. Then Superintendent, Kathy Hamblett, and the Board decided to join the suit, but after the judges ruled, state aid would be allocated on a per pupil basis. As a small school district, Litchfield and other small school districts suddenly realized that their state aid would decrease significantly. The legislature provided two years of transition aid to help bridge that loss, but the reality is that nothing can bridge such a significant loss. At best, it just delayed the negative consequences— consequences that Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler and the current Board must deal with Litchfield’s School Board and budget

committees met in joint session to review the preliminary rounds of brainstorming cuts. That process began with a document prepared by Cutler. She had provided both cuts and revenue increases and repeatedly said that the document was a work in process, designed to start the thought process and urged all not to think this was “cut in stone” as she expected to have many people, including the community, have input into

potential resolutions before the budget process was done. Litchfield School Board will hold a number

of public input sessions on the potential cuts and increases in revenue in order to hear from community members before making their final decisions. School Board Chairman Dennis Miller

explained that they were searching for the least impactful cuts and noted that School Board members had also added their thoughts to the document. Several members of the budget committee

asked for details of the “pay to play” idea. These proposals ranged from a fee per sport with a family maximum to the idea (from John York) that every child would pay an activity fee. There was discussion on all aspects of these proposals, including how to cover children where families could not afford the fee and Cutler again cautioned all that these were not written in stone, but were brainstorming ideas about how to deal with the loss of transition aid. One relatively easy proposal to save

$37,335.60 was to cut one bus. According to Cutler this would extend ride times between five and ten minutes. Another idea was to bus the middle school students and high school students at the same time and if done, the GMS bell would have to change slightly. Other cuts looked at cutting staff. Budget

Committee member Bill Spencer pointed out that enrollments had been decreasing at both the high school and elementary school and that some personnel cuts could and should be done to

adjust for the decreasing enrollments. Everyone agreed that both fifth and sixth grades are the largest classes and that it would not be in good academic interest to cut staff supporting these two grades. Miller explained that cutting the computer

course at the middle school might make sense. When the district started this, students could take the course and meet one of the high school graduation requirements, but regulations had changed and now all students have to take a computer course at the high school level. Cutler said that if done, the computers could be given to classroom teachers and that would improve student access to computers during class time. With the decrease in student enrollment

at GMS, Cutler felt that the grade 3 portable classroom could be removed saving a net $16,300 after all removal expenses were paid. She was also looking at cutting the extra days for librarians, guidance counselors and nurses. This would leave a full complement on staff during the periods when students were in the building. Proposals to put all pay increases, including

those for the non-bargaining staff, onto the warrant each year. Several budget committee members talked about other towns doing this. Then voters could vote on the raises on a yearly basis or decline to pay the raises. Union contracts are currently passed on individual warrant articles. Miller proposed cutting the Venture program

which currently has a budget of more than $16,000 per year. The club sponsor is retiring. Board and superintendent said that they could continue if they found a sponsor and if students were willing to self-fund the program. The Board is looking at the costs of summer

school. While this program would continue, there seemed to be agreement that it would solely supported by students. Currently this program is only offered to students who have failed to pass a course and Cutler said that students were already covering most if not all costs. School Board member Cindy Couture and

Dennis Miller looked to eliminate any one-time expenses that are in the current budget. Couture also suggested using parent volunteers in the GMS and LMS lunchrooms rather than paid lunchroom monitors. She suggested eliminating payment of volunteer finger-printing, which the district requires if a parent is to participate in an over-night trip and asking the parents to bear this cost. She proposed cutting all School Board salaries as well as the late bus routes as ways to cut without impacting academics.

Newly elected School Board member Mary

Prindle said that it was difficult to make cuts since this was her first budget year, but she agreed with Miller that the computer course at the middle school could be cut, suggested making the Venture program a student paid program and proposed to cut tutors at all schools. School Board member Jason Guerrette liked

the plan provided by the superintendent, but contributed that the state only requires 20 credits to graduate and perhaps the Board should go with the state standards. John York took the biggest look outside of

the box. He not only suggested an activity fee, but he also suggested that students begin being responsible for providing some of their own school supplies, which he noted is done in the majority of states. He suggested asking teachers to freeze their wages for one year and looking at cutting each budget line item by 1 to 3 percent. He asked Cutler to review telecommunication costs and see if those could be lowered and to look carefully at everyone who has a district paid cell phone. Cutler also said that the Board would have to

look at charging groups for using the schools in order to cover the costs currently borne by the district for cleanup and maintenance. The budget committee members discussed

whether it would be feasible to put some items into individual warrant articles and allow the voters to vote on more individual items. This led to a discussion of the “no mean no law” and the impact if a warrant article is voted down. Spencer asked when they would know what

aid they would receive and Cutler reviewed the process which is for schools to report students enrolled in October and then the department to calculate aid. There was also a discussion about the upgrade

of lighting at the schools and the reason that there was going to be no impact on utility costs. While fewer kilowatt hours will be used, the savings will offset the costs of the upgrades. Miller said that sensors will turn off lights at CHS when the upgrades are completed. At the end of the discussion Cutler thanked the

budget committee, reminded them that public hearings would be held on cuts before the budget was finalized and that items cut might be different than what they reviewed this evening based on continued input. “We want to put the best program together and that will take assistance from many people who may have even better ideas than what you’ve seen this evening.”

Litchfield Buses Page 11

Hudson Buses Pages 17-19

staff photo by Lynne Ober

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