Eastern Lancaster County School District is planning to lay off 15 teachers to help fill a $1.3 million gap in next year's budget.
The teachers, who currently work at New Holland Elementary School and Garden Spot middle and high schools, will be furloughed at the end of the school year.
The affected teachers work in the physical education, music, science, math, language arts, technical education, agriculture and family and consumer sciences departments at the three schools. A library position also is included in the furloughs.
In all, one part-time and 14 full-time teachers will be laid off, and another teacher's workload will be reduced. The staff reductions, which will be based on seniority, could result in increased class sizes, superintendent Robert Hollister said.
The layoffs are believed to be the first across-the-board teacher furloughs to be implemented in Lancaster County as a result of the economic downturn.
Hollister notified the teachers of the layoffs last week, and the school board is expected to vote on the cuts in February.
State law prohibits school boards from laying off teachers solely for economic reasons, but districts can cut their teaching staff if enrollment drops by 10 percent or more, Hollister said.
Teachers also may be furloughed if a program is cut or eliminated.
Elanco's enrollment has declined from about 3,700 pupils a decade ago to 3,200 today, a drop of about 13 percent, he said.
"That triggers the threshold for a one-time furlough option," Hollister said.
The savings from the layoffs, estimated at $1.1 million, will help the district bridge a funding gap in the 2011-2012 budget caused by declining revenue and rising labor, health care and operating costs.
"It's not good news," Hollister said of the layoffs. "But I think we're trying to be responsible. Bankrupting the school district is not an option."
Last month, Elanco furloughed about 20 evening custodians and hired an outside company, Jani-King, to take over their duties. That move will save the district about $125,000 per year, Hollister said.
Elanco also has reduced the hours of seven secretaries and did not replace two secretaries who left at the end of last year.
Hollister said the teacher layoffs were announced now rather than later in the school year to eliminate anxiety among staff about who might be laid off and to give the affected teachers more time to look for jobs.
The early notification also will help the district as it plans its course offerings for next year, he said.
Elanco is not alone in implementing spending cuts.
Several other school districts plan to cut or freeze administrators' pay next year and have offered employees early-retirement incentives in a bid to reduce their labor costs.
All 17 districts enrolling county students are considering cuts in a variety of expenditures, from bus routes and middle school sports programs to textbooks and teachers' aides.
District revenue from investments, earned income taxes and real estate transfer taxes is down across the county, and districts face the loss of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds.
Meanwhile, state funding for education is expected to decline or remain flat, and pension costs are soaring. Districts also are facing strict limits on their ability to raise taxes.
"These are unprecedented times in education - down revenues, limited taxing ability and very limited money coming from the state," Hollister said. "It's sort of the perfect storm."