Don't touch our teachers. Don't cut our programs.
And the board reacted by backing away from a vote to lock in this year's proposed tax increase at 2.7 percent, a move which would have meant 56 job cuts at district schools.
Instead, the board will seek exceptions from the state to raise taxes beyond the state limit, which means district property owners could see as much as a 4.5 percent increase later this year.
State law doesn't allow the district to raise property taxes by higher than 2.7 percent. However, districts are allowed to seek exceptions to that rule to pay for things such as special education funding, or pension obligations.
Under that 4.5 percent increase, the owner of a property with an assessed value of $60,000 would pay $159 more next year. Under the 2.7 increase, it would have been $88 a year more.
Earlier this month, the board presented early budget figures that showed the district cutting 56 teaching jobs under the 2.7 percent tax increase.
That prompted a petition by the March Elementary PTA, which collected more than 900 signatures in the last four days.
The PTA's Marissa McFadden asked the board Tuesday to look for "a way that not only staves off the worst of these cuts, but builds a brighter future."
“We implore you that you dig deeper and look harder," McFadden said. "These cuts must not happen.”
Others were more stark in their vision for the future. Curtis Ding, a parent and husband of a furloughed teacher, said it would be "irresponsible" for the board not to raise taxes.
“Who is going to want to move to this district if we keep stripping it?" Ding said. "People worry about $88. What happens when their property values are dropping 20, 30, 40 thousand dollars a year because no one wants to live here?”
Many people came to plead on behalf of the middle school instrumental music program, which would be lost with the teacher cuts.
“I love band and it might be my last year in it," said fifth grader Scott Sweeney. “If you take it away from kids like me, you won’t have the amazing band in high school everyone is talking about. You won’t have the notes. Maybe some of us won’t remember the notes.”
It was a standing-room only meeting, with a few dozen people sitting on the floor in front of the board, and more packed into the hallways.Board President Frank Pintabone told the audience he was pleased with the turnout. It even prompted him to resurrect his idea of holding occasional meetings at various district schools.
The board will meet against next Tuesday to take action on the proposed 4.5 percent increase.