On Tuesday, the board turned from paperwork to gathering suggestions, ideas and questions from the audience. Residents gave their views both individually and in small focus groups.
Caps on the number of students in a classroom and keeping special education programs consistent were among the chief concerns.
"At Charlton Elementary, the kids need to take so many required tests, and we need small class sizes for the kids to learn," said Linda Fieldhouse. "The curriculum is growing, and it's easier for students who need extra help to fall through the cracks with classes of 24 to 25."
"My child has been shunted around from place to place for special education, and it's been detrimental," said Helen Ross. "Is there a long-range plan? It's unfair on the children to have classes at one school, then a different school the next year. They have anxiety issues."
Taxpayers also gave their feedback on whether they'd support an additional one-half percent tax increase to build the district's fund balance. "I manage our bills at home, and it's important to have a fund balance," said Sheryl Lauria. "Everyone has to make sacrifices to save money. There should be money left for emergencies."
Another proposal under board consideration is attracting corporate sponsorship of district programs, an idea that was met with mixed reactions.
"I think it's unattractive to have a corporate name splashed on athletic fields, for example," said Liza McErlean. "But if we do it, it would be better coming from small local businesses rather than from large corporations."
"We don't want to be seeing the 'Pepsi Spartans,'" said school board member Timothy Kelliher.
"No one in the Suburban Council is doing this type of corporate sponsorship," said Lauria. "We would need very strong guidelines on banners, with lots of size limitations, but it could be a good way to find alternative revenues."
The proposed budget will face continuous scrutiny before voters head to the polls on May 15.
Until April, there will be ongoing lobbying and refinement of expenditures and revenues. Another public budget forum will be held on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at the Ballston town hall. The board will vote on the finalized version of the budget on April 17. Budget updates and announcements can be accessed on www.bhbl.org.""