About 75 parents, business leaders and community members attended the second of three town hall meetings designed to help the Tucson Unified School District balance next year's budget, which is projected to fall $17 million short.

The district faces the deficit because of a significant drop in enrollment, millions cut from state funding in the last couple of years and the end of federal stimulus funds, said John Pedicone, TUSD superintendent.

"If we do not do this correctly, we will end up in a spiral that is going to be very difficult to come out of," Pedicone said.

Two dozen people lined up behind a microphone in the Cholla High School auditorium at the end of the meeting waiting for their turn to address Pedicone and other district officials, as well as TUSD's governing board members.

Some suggested the district should cut back on utilities, upgrade old schools to be more energy-efficient, and partner with the city and county to help balance its budget. Many asked to keep their neighborhood schools open.

Rosario Gutierrez, the parent of two TUSD high school students, said the idea of school closures is troubling.

"My concern is, where are the kids going? Our schools are already overpopulated and they’re going to be worse if some are shut down," she said.

Those attending the town hall meeting were given a survey with eight options on where to cut to balance the budget.

At the end of Wednesday's meeting, TUSD officials showed the results. Most people chose to reduce or strategically consolidate school facilities. Most people chose a reduction in salaries as the last resort, according to the survey results.

The last meeting in this series of town halls will be Saturday at Catalina Magnet High School at 10 a.m.

Read the TUSD School Master Plan Survey: View at Google Docs | Download File