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Donations have dropped so low in the nation's largest Boy Scouts of America local council the Orem-based Utah National Parks Council that it is now planning layoffs.
"We're substantially behind what we've done in the past," Stan Lockhart, volunteer president of the council that serves 90,000 youth, said about its annual Friends of Scouting fundraising drive. That began in September and will continue through the end of the year, but the bulk of contributions usually comes early.
So the need for layoffs among the council's 70 employees "is self-evident," he said, although he is unsure of the number.
The donations drop-off comes in the wake of the national Boy Scouts lifting its longtime ban on gay leaders and for a time uncertainty whether the LDS Church would continue associating with it.
While Lockhart said, "We simply don't know exactly why" donations are down, Rick Barnes, Scout executive of the nearby Salt Lake City-based Great Salt Lake Council, said he has a pretty good idea.
"I think people may be kind of mad at the Boy Scouts, but there's a big difference between the National Council and the three local councils in Utah," he said.
In July, the national Boy Scouts rescinded its ban on gay leaders which "deeply troubled" The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It initially said it was considering dropping its sponsorship of Scout units and creating its own international program.
But a month later, the church announced it would stay with Boy Scouts, noting that the national group said it would allow its church-sponsored units "to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values."
Lockhart said that 99.4 percent of Scout units in his council are sponsored by the LDS Church, and a majority of its operating money comes from that church's Friends of Scouting drive. In it, church leaders try to contact all homes in their neighborhoods to solicit donations for the council.
"This is a painful time" with layoffs coming, said Lockhart, widower of former Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart and himself a former chairman of the Utah Republican Party. "These are people we know and love, who have dedicated their careers to helping Boy Scouts. It just hurts."
The state's other two Boy Scout councils began or will begin their fund-raising drives later than the Orem-based group, so their leaders say it is still too early to see how deeply donations are dropping there. But they already have made some cuts, or are planning them.
Barnes, of the Salt Lake City-based Great Salt Lake Council serving 77,000 youth, said it plans not to fill two vacancies caused by retirements.
Barnes said it intentionally began its fundraising drive a month later than usual in October to add some extra time between the initial uncertainty over continued LDS Scout sponsorship and the drive.
Allen Endicott, Scout executive of the Ogden-based Trapper Trails Council serving 50,000 scouts, said it will not begin its major fundraising drive until February, but has made some budget cuts anticipating fewer donations.
As Endicott notes, "There's a misconception that money from Friends of Scouting goes to the National Council. That's not true. Local donations stay in the council where they are collected. Registration fees go to the National Council."
The local councils use donations for such things as operating local camps, running Scout stores, training and administering programs. Those donations are not shared with local troops and packs, which must raise money for their own activities.
Protests over Scouting's stands on gays may not be the only issue potentially affecting donations. High pay for local executives has also been controversial.
Online 2013 tax forms show Barnes' annual compensation was $268,682 ($166,255 in salary and $102,427 in benefits); David Pack, Scout executive of the National Parks Council, according to 2012 forms, received $208,975 ($149,170 in salary and $59,805 in benefits); and a 2013 tax form shows Endicott received $151,259 ($103,356 in salary and $47,903 in benefits).
In comparison, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in fiscal 2015 received $156,425, including a salary of $109,900 and benefits of $46,525.
Despite the drop in donations, Scout leaders vow to provide the best programs possible.
"We will do our very best to continue offering the services we have in the past," Lockhart said. "But obviously when you have fewer people to do those services, it will be more difficult."
Leaders are also asking past donors who have not contributed this year to reconsider.
"For those who care about the work that we do, we'd invite them to participate," Lockhart said. "It's all about serving and helping young people become contributing members of society."
The LDS Church is far and away Scouting's biggest sponsor nationwide, serving 437,160 boys in 37,933 troops.