Furloughs are a last resort—now and always

Viewers of our recent school board meetings know that the board considered and approved a resolution authorizing the board to furlough employees for economic reasons, as LNP + LancasterOnline reported on Thursday. I want to provide some context on what this does—and does not—mean for our staff.

The Pennsylvania school code requires school boards to approve a resolution like this before it can consider any furloughs. This requirement exists to protect employees from sudden notice of job loss. It does not mean the board has decided to furlough.

As you know, our district is facing a large deficit next year—now projected at more than $12 million due to the COVID-19 emergency and economy’s crash—and the board is reviewing all options. However, in light of the economic picture, the administration is giving the board budgetary options that include no furloughs to any employee and no tax increase for property owners.

In fact, our school directors are so against furloughs at this time, they added the following language to the board resolution:

“The Board of School Directors for the School District of Lancaster wishes to not furlough employees in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. It strongly desires to avoid furloughing any employees, if there is a fiscally-prudent and community-minded way to approve a balanced budget without furloughs. Although it is premature at this point to make any final decision, the Board is hopeful to not furlough any employees in the next school year.”

However, our board needs to act prudently. We are no longer projecting an increase in state funding of $1 million as proposed by the governor in February, but we may end up with a cut in state subsidy. (The state is facing a deficit of up to $5 billion.) We do not yet know for sure how much federal stimulus money we will receive—and those will be one-time funds, not recurring revenues.

Passing this resolution simply gives the board an additional option. It does not change the district’s intent to avoid furloughs. LNP’s story is accurate, but emphasis matters.

A larger look at our possible budget adjustments shows that the board has been listening to staff and community feedback from ThoughtExchange. For example, we looked first at reducing administrative positions, we are cutting back on how much we allocate for off-site professional development and reducing consultant expenses.

We remain in regular communication with our association leaders about possible impacts of these adjustments. The board will continue to consider its options before voting on a final budget in June.