Low Philadelphia Flower Show attendance brings horticultural society layoffs

 The Subaru

The Subaru "All You Need is Love" exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Low attendance at the show limited its fund-raising for the horticultural society. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society ― host of the Philadelphia Flower Show ― has laid off 22 of its 133 staff members to help deal with a $1.8 million deficit. 

The society also downgraded two positions to part-time, instituted pay cuts for its top earners and re-organized senior management.

 “It’s a situation that’s mainly due to the revenue that we’ve been earning over the past couple of years and how it’s culminated this year with the deficit,” said Alan Jaffe, PHS’s communications director.

Jaffe cited decreased government funding and low philanthropic gifts as reasons for PHS’s struggles. But the biggest problem was this year’s low attendance at the annual Flower Show, which cost the organization around $1 million, according to Jaffe.

“That’s our fundraiser,” he said. “It goes towards the programs we do year round.”

PHS is reducing some “less effective” educational programs. “The education department will be looking at the whole spectrum of workshops and presentations that we do around the region,” Jaffe said. “Those that have not been as successful will be reduced.”

Jaffe could not say which programs specifically would be cut, because they are “still doing those evaluations now and trying to determine what we can do with the resources we have.”

But even though some community programs will be reduced, Jaffe did say that the bulk of the changes will be internal. Those changes “won’t affect programs but just how we operate here.”

PHS will continue to operate as best it can, including developing new projects and evolving the Flower Show to attract a bigger audience. Eventually the organization will hire five people for new positions who have “new skills that will be needed,” Jaffe said.

Regardless of the layoffs and cuts, Jaffe was confident in PHS’s future. “We’ll be doing much better next year,” he said.

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