Seventeen teachers will lose their jobs as the South Eastern School District struggles to deal with declining enrollment and increasing expenses.

The school board Thursday voted 8-1 to furlough 17 of the district's 262 professional employees. The furloughs are based on seniority, which is defined as continuous service to the district. Board member Traci Stauffer cast the lone dissenting vote.

After the meeting, Stauffer said she had questioned whether the board had done its due diligence in cutting as many costs as it could before moving on to personnel.

This year's budget process has been emotionally draining for all involved, Stauffer said.

The board was able to approve the furloughs because the district has lost more than 400 students over the past four years. The state Department of Education projects South Eastern will continue to lose students over the next three years to a level of 2,615 students, fewer than the number enrolled in the 1994-95 school year.

By law, a school district cannot furlough personnel for strictly financial reasons. Declining enrollment and other factors must be evident to cut staff.

In addition to the furlough vote, the board also approved a tax increase of 1.7 percent effective July 1, Stauffer said. The board could have set the rate at 2.2 percent but board members felt strongly that local property owners are already bearing too much of the expense for public education.

The board also voted to create all-day kindergarten at its three elementary schools, Stauffer said. One half-day kindergarten class will remain at Fawn Area for parents who do no wish to enroll their children in the full-day program.