OREM — The Utah National Parks Council for the Boy Scouts of America expects to lay off employees largely because of a drop in donations this fall, the organization announced this week.
Just more than halfway through its Friends of Scouting fundraising campaign that runs from September through December, the organization decided it has enough financial data to know layoffs are necessary, said Stan Lockhart, council president.
"The drive isn't over, but we have preliminary (data) that indicate that we're down substantially," Lockhart said. "We don't currently have a percentage … but we know it's down substantially."
The Utah National Parks Council is the governing body that serves all Utah Boy Scouts south of Salt Lake County. Lockhart said the council has about 70 employees, in addition to 45,000 volunteers, and serves about 90,000 Scouts. He declined to go into detail about the shortage in donations or specify when or how many employees will be laid off.
"This is a painful day for us all. We have people that we love that are no longer going to have a job here," Lockhart said Monday.
It has been an eventful year for the Boy Scouts of America, which voted in July to rescind a nationwide ban on gay Scout leaders while still allowing its chartered organizations to select local troop leaders according to their own criteria.
The LDS Church reacted by promising to re-examine its relationship with the Boy Scouts, calling the decision troubling and inconsistent with Scouting values and church doctrine. The church's First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced a month later that the church would continue its association with Boy Scouts, saying in a statement they valued the organization's provision allowing chartered organizations "to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values."
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of (the Boy Scouts of America) and as in the past will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify church doctrine, values and standards," the statement read.
Lockhart said he is worried some donors who have supported Scouts in the past now misunderstand the ongoing relationship between Scouting and the LDS Church. More than 99 percent of troops in the Utah National Parks Council are LDS-chartered. However, he added it's hard to know specifically why donations are significantly down.
"… I think some people are confused," he said. "And yet the (LDS) Church has reiterated its support for Scouting 100 percent. And it's regrettable we just haven't been able to raise the funds to sustain the program we've had in the past."
Lockhart implored anyone on the fence about Scouting to recognize what he calls its major contribution to the development of teenage boys. He also reiterated that all donated funds are used at the council level and are not pooled nationally.
"There's a difference between the national Scout organization and our council. Our council is at the grass-roots level. It's about serving boys. It's about helping them grow and develop and become men," Lockhart said. "All we're trying to do is to serve young men. And this (donation shortage) hurts that ability to serve them the way that they deserve to be served."
The Friends of Scouting donation drive is the paramount source of funding for the council's extensive volunteer support, record-keeping and summer camps, according to Lockhart.
"We need help. We need the help and support of the people who understand the blessings that Scouting brings to young people," he said.
The Great Salt Lake Council, which serves Scouts in Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties, as well as part of Davis County, began its Friends of Scouting drive about a month later than usual this year to distance its fundraising from the disagreement between the national organization and the LDS Church about gay leaders.
"From May to August there was just a lot of uncertainty," said Great Salt Lake Council Scout Executive Rick Barnes. "We just wanted to overcome all that uncertainty."
Barnes said the funds raised for operation in 2015 were the most ever for the council, which is responsible for about 77,000 Boy Scouts. Current fundraising for next year is about a month behind schedule as expected with the late start, he said, but he doesn't anticipate a major donation shortage.
The Great Salt Lake Council doesn't anticipate any layoffs, but it's possible at least two vacancies caused by retirement or attrition won't be filled, he said.
The Trapper Trails Council — which covers part of Davis County and the rest of Utah north of Salt Lake, and portions of Idaho and Wyoming — always collects donations through Friends of Scouting beginning in February and running at least through the end of May. The organization hasn't "had any discussion" about layoffs, said Trapper Trails Council Scout Executive Allen Endicott.
"It's a difficult year. There is truth to that. We're doing as best as we can," Endicott said. "We've made some adjustments in our budget."
Council officials are aware that intense publicity surrounding the Boy Scouts this year may affect the organization's finances, according to Endicott.
"This year, with some of the things in the news, (fundraising) has been a little more difficult (to predict), but as a council we’re making some adjustments and I think we’re going to be OK," he said. "We’re very grateful for the community support we receive in the Trapper Trails Council."
Endicott said he is disappointed to hear of the layoffs at the Utah National Parks Council. He echoed Lockhart's sentiment that donations to Boy Scouts go toward a cause that makes a tangible difference in the lives of teenage boys.
"Scouting is definitely relevant and plays an important role in the communities we serve," Endicott said. "(The donations) are sacred, and we do the best to provide the best quality program we can."