About 150 employees of the Carson City School District attended Tuesday's board meeting to protest salary negotiations and staff cuts.
Librarians, aides and music teachers expressed dismay over the announcement that 21 positions are being cut, 10 of which were not filled and 11 of which are layoffs.
"We feel like we have to do what we can to be more efficient with our money," said Richard Stokes, associate superintendent of human resources. "Our goal right now is to eliminate the deficit spending we've been in for three of the last four years."
Classified employees joined with teachers in calling for a 2 percent raise, prompting board members to devote the April 27 meeting to budget discussions.
Holding signs saying "Leave no teacher behind" and "Highly qualified teachers - priceless," employees marched in front of the Carson City Community Center before the meeting.
Terry Hickman, president of the Nevada State Education Association, joined the march.
"I'm here representing the 2,200 members of NSEA who are in solidarity and support of the teachers in Carson City," he said. "We're disgusted that this district does not see fit to prioritize teachers."
Tension has built this year as district officials have said they cannot afford to pass on to employees the 2 percent raises set aside by the Legislature.
Among other reasons, officials have pointed to a drop in enrollment.
Teri Cantley, administrative specialist for the transportation department, disputed that claim, citing Nevada law, which states school districts will receive funding for the amount of students enrolled the previous year if enrollment drops.
"Be honest, Carson City School District," she said. "We've done the math, and it's not adding up to the story you're feeding the community and your employees."
Trustee John McKenna responded that three meetings were organized to explain budgets, and the board would answer any other questions in any form desired.
Board member Bob Crowell expressed frustration at laws barring trustees from discussing negotiations, and that there is little input from employees during the budget process.
"The time to make this decisions is not in the political sense, but when we sit down to do the budget," he said. "This room is packed tonight, but I'll tell you, last May when the budget was being discussed, there were maybe three people. The issue isn't whether you deserve a raise, you do. The question is, where do we get it?"
Former board president Jean Kvam, now a teacher at Carson Middle School, said it is the responsibility of the board to "demystify the budget process" and get into "the nitty-gritty particulars."
"I'm sorry to see the current situation between the board and teachers in the district," she said. "It is critical for the board to mend the current situation."
Contact Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 881-1272.