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Valley News Dispatch

30 Highlands employees could lose their jobs amid financial crisis

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, May 17, 2018, 11:42 a.m.
Buses line up in front of Highlands Middle School in Harrison as dismissal nears on Thursday, May 17, 2018. About 30 district employees were told they could lose their jobs if the school board approves furloughs at its next meeting on Monday.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Buses line up in front of Highlands Middle School in Harrison as dismissal nears on Thursday, May 17, 2018. About 30 district employees were told they could lose their jobs if the school board approves furloughs at its next meeting on Monday.
Highlands High School
Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Highlands High School

The Highlands School District told 30 employees they could lose their jobs.

District officials met Wednesday with the employees being considered for furlough, district Solicitor Ira Weiss said Thursday.

The school board is expected to vote Monday on approving the furloughs.

The district is facing a $6 million deficit in its 2018-19 proposed budget. In addition to furloughs, the district is considering a maximum tax increase of 3.5 percent, borrowing up to $11.5 million and reconfiguring in which schools students are housed.

The reconfiguration proposal would see all kindergarten and prekindergarten students at Fairmount; grades 1-4 at Grandview; and grades 5-8 at the middle school. The high school is unaffected.

The furloughs, combined with not filling six vacant positions, would save $1.8 million, Weiss said.

“Nothing is final until the board votes,” he said.

Weiss said the “vast majority” of the employees being considered for furlough are not teachers. Most are aides, social workers, behavior specialists and secretaries.

Union representatives were with the employees for the meetings, Weiss said.

Matt Edgell, a spokesman with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, confirmed the meetings had taken place.

“As far as I know, nothing is official until Monday,” he said.

Edgell said the union would work with the district to find other ways to close the budget gap.

“It's our hope that they don't furlough. It's our hope they find other ways to work this out,” he said. “I wouldn't say Highlands is overstaffed by any means. To furlough educational employees — teachers or counselors or educational specialists — just hurts the students. That's what we're thinking about.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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