Pennsylvania's budget crunch is starting to affect Lancaster County's three state-owned museums, which are being forced to lay off employees and reduce hours of operation.
Nine of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania's 16 staff members were furloughed this week, and staff cuts are soon expected at the Ephrata Cloister and Landis Valley Museum.
"The budget was reduced by $15.7 million, or almost 43 percent," said Kirk Wilson, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "So the furloughs were the means by which we had to reduce our expenditures so we could remain within the revenues budget."
Wilson declined to say how many positions will be eliminated at the Cloister and Landis Valley, calling it a "personnel matter." He said PHMC officials are traveling around the state, visiting each site to "deliver the bad news personally."
Wilson also could not confirm if the executive director's position at the railroad museum in Strasburg, the PHMC's most visited site, will be filled following the transfer of David Dunn to Harrisburg earlier this year.
Across Pennsylvania, 85 PHMC employees, or about 34 percent of its workforce, will be laid off at the state's 23 historic sites. The remaining workforce will number about 250 people. To keep the sites running, Wilson said, the museums will rely on their volunteers.
"A lot of our sites have friends, groups or associates; volunteers who, basically, make the operation run with the help of the paid staff," Wilson said.
Earlier this year, PHMC eliminated 43 positions, and six historic sites began to transfer programming and operational responsibilities. Services at six additional sites will be discontinued and five will close for the winter and may reopen in the spring.
Wilson does not expect any of the county's sites, three of the PHMC's most popular, to close. However, he said there will probably be cuts in hours of operation.
"We are re-evaluating all our programs, and one possibility is a likely reduction in hours at both Landis Valley and the Ephrata Cloister," Wilson said.
Elsewhere, the State Museum in Harrisburg will close on Mondays and Tuesdays and eliminate all new exhibit spending. The State Archives will close on Mondays and Tuesdays. The State Record Center will charge a fee for service effective Jan. 1.
According to Monday's announcement about the furloughs, employees losing their jobs will get 10 days of paid leave. Their final day on the job will be today.