Due to Budget Deficit, Saucon Valley School District May Lay Off Staff

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The Saucon Valley School District administration building (FILE PHOTO)

The Saucon Valley School District is facing tough choices due to economic circumstances, which is why the administration is proposing laying off some staff and reducing others’ hours from full-time to part-time in 2020-2021 budget that will be voted on Tuesday.

Also proposed is a freeze on pay raises for teachers.

According to a draft agenda for the public meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. on the virtual video conferencing platform Zoom, the board will consider a number of spending reductions as part of the final 2020-2021 budget it must approve by June 30.

To save $303,147 the following employees’ jobs are one the line according to the agenda: Lynn Cheddar, Supervisor of Federal Programs, Assessment and Professional Development; Nancy Zapotocki, High School Attendance Administrative Assistant; Nancy Bohnhorst, Athletic Administrative Assistant; Catherine Garrity, K-8 Attendance Administrative Assistant; and Martha Kelemen, Business Office Part-Time Administrative Assistant.

According to the proposed budget, changing the classification of a number of employees from full-time to part-time could result in savings of more than $75,000, although the exact amount would be at the administration’s discretion.

Other proposed slashes to the budget include:

  • Cancelation of the district’s Spanish Immersion Program for the 2020-21 school year for a savings of $84,929
  • A reduction in Athletic Program spending for a savings of $19,503
  • Cancelation of the purchase of two district vans for a savings of $80,590
  • Elimination of contracted paraprofessionals for a savings of $207,900
  • Cancellation of a transfer to the district’s Capital Project Funds for a savings of $224,000
  • Implementation of a 15 percent building level budget reduction for a savings of $80,771

Taken together, the above reductions would save the district nearly $1.1 million.

The 2020-2021 budget that is under consideration and up for a vote Tuesday is in the amount of $48,164,758 and does not include a tax increase. Under it, the millage rate for property owners would remain steady at 53.43 mills. However, more than $2 million would be borrowed from the district’s fund balance in order to balance the budget.

Eighth grade math teacher and district resident David Lloyd criticized the district’s approach to achieving a balanced budget during the public comment portion of the board’s June 9 meeting.

Lloyd said some board members had done a “masterful” job of painting a “doom-like” financial picture for the district at the start of the meeting.

“Like a team, you set yourselves up and asked (administrators) the question, ‘Where are we going to find this’–specifically at the time it was $3 million–‘where are we going to find the $3 million?'” he said. “Immediately, it was referenced that (Superintendent) Dr. (Craig) Butler was going to make cuts, that there were going to be reductions.”

“(School board member) Mr. (Bryan) Eichfeld then followed it up moments later by mentioning that 71 percent of the budget is salaries and that the employees ‘need to give back,'” Lloyd continued. “Those of you who are in favor of this plan are jumping the gun. There’s other options that you’re ignoring, and as mentioned when I started I’m a taxpayer here as well. You’ve not raised taxes more than one time in 11 years and we have an $11 million fund balance.”

“The rainy day fund is there. It’s raining,” Lloyd said. “This is the time to use some of that money and then if the doom-and-gloom is in fact the case, then you can start looking at other options. But you have options on the table. You’ve ignored both of them. And you went right to employee givebacks. And that’s disappointing not only as an employee of Saucon Valley for 20 years now, but as a taxpayer with two kids in the district.”

Parent Alicia Kichline spoke during the meeting and thanked teachers for the work they did instructing students during the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She also agreed with Lloyd’s dim view of the proposed budget reductions.

“Mr. Lloyd is my eighth grade daughter’s math teacher and he has done wonderful with her,” she told the board. “The fact that the first thing that was suggested was to not do teachers’ raises is extremely disappointing to me. It’s a little disgusting actually. Like Mr. Lloyd said, you guys do have that rainy day fund and it is a rainy day right now. You need to go for that.”

To watch and participate in Tuesday’s school board meeting, visit the school board page on the district website and follow the instructions for joining the Zoom call.

2 thoughts on “Due to Budget Deficit, Saucon Valley School District May Lay Off Staff

  1. It’ raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring! Translation: You have adequate funds. Do NOT take this out on long-time employees by withholding their raises or by furloughing them. Bite the bullet and see what develops. I trust the District can and will do better than this.

  2. So the Saucon Valley School Board is going to ask its teachers to take a pay freeze. Let’s understand that Saucon Valley was one of the first – if not THE first – school district to immediately and fully implement on-line learning as soon as public schools were ‘evacuated’ due to COVID-19. Let’s understand that their process to take student attendance was changed on a weekly basis. Let’s understand that all these teachers needed to immediately adapt to a new form of educational delivery from day 1. If you’ve followed the School Board meetings and the sub-committee meetings online, you’ll know that to this day the adults running the online meetings still haven’t adapted to this new form of communication.
    Parents have praised the efforts of the teachers throughout the district, perhaps to the dismay of the School Board. The School Board has an $11,000,000 (that’s MILLION) surplus EMERGENCY fund that they refuse to draw on because clearly this is NOT an emergency to the board. Schools have closed, businesses have gone bankrupt, temporary hospitals have been set up – yet surprisingly the School Board does not see this as an emergency situation.
    Instead, the School Board prefers to furlough/fire/layoff the paraprofessionals and administrative staff. The School Board prefers to ask the teachers for a pay freeze.
    From an outsider’s perspective, it strikes me that the Board is more concerned with re-election than education so they won’t even consider raising the school taxes. I don’t believe they’ve been raised in nearly 10 years. Let’s understand that after trying to educate and entertain their children for the past 3 months, most parents would welcome a 1% tax hike.
    The teachers will be required to vote on the pay freeze and they will rightfully reject it. The Board will then get to point their collective finger at the Teacher’s Union and blame them for the financial woes.
    Here’s my suggestion: raise the taxes or draw on the emergency fund so that the people closest to the students (aside from the teachers), the people truly responsible for the students’ educations, are not furloughed.
    If not, go for the “low hanging fruit,” I know where you can cut $165,000 from the budget and it won’t affect your student’s/children’s educational experience in the least.

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