BOYERTOWN, Pa. - The budget battle in one local school district drew a large crowd of people Tuesday night.
Hundreds showed their support for various programs that are on the chopping block in the Boyertown Area School District, which includes part of Berks and Montgomery counties.
The school board said it is facing a deficit of $6.5 million, which is why it is considering program cuts to electives like language, physical education, and music.
Music was the prayer by string instrument students. Their entire program is on the chopping block. They said 500 students would be affected.
"I wouldn't say this is a protest. I would say this is more of a reminder to everybody to show them what they would be getting rid of and why you shouldn't it's so important to our community," said CJ Hartung, a Boyertown freshman.
Before the school board meeting music students demonstrated their talents.
"We just think it's unfair that people are trying to take this away and cut down on it because for most of us this is our lives. This is what we come to school for," said Dana Siepietowski, a Boyertown freshman.
But school could be very different next year. The superintendent said that's the reality of a $6.5 million budget deficit.
"I can't lie and say, 'Well, everything is going to be alright,'" said Dion Betts, the Boyertown superintendent, who added that, if a deal is reached with the teachers union to freeze wages for a year, the district could save $2.6 million.
Betts is also recommending a tax increase. The school board asked for a one year wage freeze in exchange for a guarantee no teachers would be let go until June 2012.
"We are planning for the worst, which is unfortunately cutting significantly arts, music, important electives and so on," said Betts.
"We are 100 percent in favor of a tax increase," said Judy Moyer from Gilbertsville, a parent of three music students.
Some parents said they were willing to pay more. Teachers wearing red and black, the district's colors, insisted on saving vital elective courses.
One group that wasn't well represented was senior citizens, who might not be able to afford a tax increase.
"It's easy for me to say hard for other families we understand that," said Moyer.
Looking at her kids play, she said, "They are good kids and they don't deserve to be the pawn in a game they shouldn't even be playing, which breaks my heart."
The superintendent said the school board will vote on final budget by June 14.
Allentown, PA 18102