Lehigh Valley

ASD board approves plan to lay off 100

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - By a 5-4 vote the Allentown School District's  Board of Directors approved a proposal that would put 100 employees - including 74 teachers - out of work during Thursday night's meeting.

Should the cuts be finalized it would bring the total number who have lost their jobs during the last four budget cycles in the district to 466 people.

Directors Charles Thiel, Ce Ce Gerlach, Joanne Bauer and President Robert Smith Jr. dissented.

Directors could alter that decision before a final budget must be ratified by June 30th if the district receives additional state funding.

Superintendent C. Russell Mayo argued against that procrastination Thursday night, saying it would simply delay the district's long-term ability to finally get their financial house in order.

"We have to be responsible," Mayo said of not spending more money than the district has. "...It becomes a vicious cycle," Mayo said.

ASD staff, taxpayers and students could already write a bestseller about the vicious cycle of enduring the last three years with budgets that have purged 366 staff members and consistently hit property owners with increased taxes.

Incredibly, the forecast is for more of the same over the next two or three years until the district could finally see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, Mayo said.

Thursday night's cuts include 22 high school teachers, 14 special education teachers, 12 clerical support staff and 10 paraprofessionals.

Those job cuts will save about $5 million.

The district is facing a $10.6 million budget shortfall, which already includes a 3.2 percent tax increase.

"It is just demoralizing that teachers can be continually cut," said Bauer.

"I don't want to raise taxes on people, I don't want to layoff teachers," said Thiel, who blamed what he called "ridiculous state laws" as the culprit for the district's deplorable financial state.

"Who came up with this (current state laws)? Thiel said at one point. "...I'm a law-abiding citizen, but some laws are unjust."

Mayo cautioned it could be even worse if things don't pan out for ASD as they plan.

Gov. Corbett introduced a new Ready to Learn Block Grant during his February 4th budget presentation that Mayo said is the only thing keeping another 29 teachers from the unemployment lines.

The grant currently has not been funded by the legislature and even if it should be, Mayo added Thursday night, it is not guaranteed the somewhat nebulous and strict guidelines of how the $5.2 million could be designated toward those positions, although Mayo said he "had reason to believe" they could.

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