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Citizens committee gears up to promote levy ahead of May 19 vote by residents in Litchfield School District

LITCHFIELD -- A privately funded citizens committee will introduce the first of numerous neighborhood informational meetings next week that promote the Litchfield Public Schools' levy proposal and detail the May 19 referendum.

Superintendent Bill Wold said in an interview this week that the Citizens for Education Committee will hold the first of at least nine neighborhood meetings Thursday to inform the Litchfield community about the school district's upcoming referendum.

On May 19, voters will decide whether to support or reject a seven-year, $600-per-student operating levy scheduled to start in 2010. The district's proposal asks for about $300 more per student than the district's existing levy that expires in 2012.

Litchfield Public Schools is seeking the same levy increase in May that local voters rejected in November. Following the defeat, the district in December fell into statutory operating debt -- meaning the budget deficit exceeds limits set by the state -- due to an unexpected special education debt.

Wold said the Citizens for Education Committee has at least 35 members, according to the number of volunteers he counted during the committee's March 31 meeting.

"There was a lot of energy in the room," Wold said about the committee.

"So we felt pretty good about that."

Wold said the "community coordinators" have been split among the nine regions of the district to invite local families to attend their respective neighborhood informational meeting. School Board members and Wold will also attend these meetings to assist with any information about the referendum.

The School Board also scheduled a board meeting to follow the committee's April 27 informational meeting at Prairie Park in Litchfield, Wold said. The board will conduct its meeting in the pavilion of the park after the neighborhood meeting. "That will be a little bit more of an outreach type of thing there," Wold said.

Failing to pass a levy in the fall has encouraged the district to try a few different approaches to promoting and informing voters about the levy proposal, Wold said. For instance, last month the district sought endorsement of the levy by the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce, something the district hadn't tried in over 10 years.

The district's attempt was successful as the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce gave its endorsement in late March.

In other district business:

- The district appointed 23 election judges for the May 19 referendum. Wold said the district will cycle the officials during voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 19 at Litchfield High School.

- The School Board approved an agreement with the district principals for a 0 percent increase to their salaries in 2008-09 and 2009-10. In the board's March 25 meeting, Wold accepted a similar three-year contract for a 0 percent salary increase. Wold said the principals' agreement "sends a message to the community" about how committed the staff is to the district's recovery from statutory operating debt.