A group of parents, taxpayers and teachers are banding together in Bay Shore -- where the school district is ranked the fifth most fiscally stressed in the state -- to ensure they are heard during this year's budget process.
At a meeting of the group Monday night at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Public Library, some spoke about proposals group members can offer Superintendent Karen Salmon instead of dealing with board members at meetings that have already proved to be contentious.
Salmon is expected to present the board with a budget draft at Wednesday night's board meeting. She has said the district is struggling financially because the state had cut more than $16 million in funding over the past three years.
Last year, after voters passed a $143.7 million budget with a 5.9 percent tax hike, the board said a budget committee would be formed to collect input from the community, residents asserted.
But at a recent board meeting -- where tensions grew amid calls for transparency by the board on fiscal issues -- president Mary Louise Cohen said there would be no committee.
That prompted Shalema Ford, 43, who has three children in the district, to help form the Concerned Parents of Bay Shore.
"We're not against the school board or the superintendent," Ford said. "We want the budget to pass. We just want the district to run more effectively and efficiently."
One teacher, who declined to be identified at the meeting, said she lost her teaching assistant to budget cuts even as the number of students in her classes grows.
"As a teacher and a taxpayer, I agreed to take a pay freeze and raise my taxes. I got hit twice," the teacher said. "So I feel everybody's pain and I get it."