As school district officials pondered budget numbers behind closed doors Tuesday evening, employees were making their opinions public.
"What do we want?" one member asked.
"Two percent," the others cried.
"When do we want it?"
"Now!" they chanted as they marched with picket signs outside the meeting at the Carson City Community Center while passing cars honked in support.
Classified employees - all those who work for the school district who are not teachers or administrators - asked for the 2 percent raise allocated by the Legislature.
They were told there wasn't enough money in the budget.
"We feel the employees deserve a raise, it's just a matter of being able to pay for it," said Superintendent Mary Pierczynski. "The Legislature gave a 2 percent raise, but the ability of each school district to pay that is dependent on the financial situation in each district."
Salary and benefits negotiations are confidential so details of the discussions cannot be released.
School districts receive funds from the state depending on the number of students enrolled. For the first time since 1982, enrollment dropped in the Carson City School District.
Employees aren't convinced there's no money for them.
"If the Legislature gave it to us, it's there," said Paula Bruneau, a cook at Empire Elementary School.
She carried a sign that read: "Be fair. Give us our share."
About 75 of the district's 371 classified employees rallied with signs such as "We know how much you care - 0 percent" and "Our debtors won't accept 0 percent."
About 50 protesters stayed for the board meeting. Mike Campbell, president of the state classified employee association, urged board members to contemplate the consequences of denying a pay raise.
"When wages are low, good employees leave," he said. "When good employees leave our schools, it's the children who suffer."
Debbie Todarello received a standing ovation when she called on board members to reconsider the impasse.
"It's time to negotiate the proposal the Nevada Classified School Employees Association has put on the table," she said. "We are asking that you do the right thing and authorize a pay increase."
The teachers association was not a part of the protest, but the negotiations chairwoman of the Ormsby County Educators Association expressed support for the picketing.
"We're real disappointed that we are at impasse again," she said. "It's a real sad statement as to the process we have going in this district. I implore you to consider changing that."