Sequester cuts will be felt by local schools and economy

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With no movement in sight by Congress, federal spending cuts to the tune of $85 billion are set to take place on March 1.

To get an idea on how these cuts could be felt state-by-state, on Feb. 24 the White House released documents that looked at how the proposed spending cuts will affect all 50 states. According to the White House, in Washington alone, teachers and schools will lose approximately $11,606,000 in funding for primary and secondary education. Our state would also lose approximately $11,251,000 in funds for about 140 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.

Around 440 fewer low-income students in Washington would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 180 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.

Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 1,000 children in Washington, reducing access to critical early education.

South Puget Sound News checked in with Steilacoom Historical School District Superintendent Bill Fritz to see if the district knew of any immediate impacts the spending cuts would have locally.

“In a given year, about six percent of the district’s total budget comes from federal dollars. Most of these federal resources are used for student academic support programs, such as Title I programs for remediation in reading and math at Cherrydale, Anderson Island, and Saltar’s Point, district-wide special education services, and career and technical education.  For these programs, since they were “front funded” to the State, any impact would be seen next fall, and we would take that into account when we budget for 2013-14 as a reduced revenue source.  Right now, it is unclear as to whether we would actually “scale down” programs, as federal funding does vary from year-to-year anyway,” he said.

One revenue source that would decrease immediately for the district is Federal Impact Aid resources, received due to serving military students. According to the superintendent, the district receives approximately $200,000 a year in impact aid dollars.

“These resources are not spent on specific itemized programs but would have a diminishing and immediate impact on our overall revenue stream, in an amount of 5.3 percent,” said Fritz.

He added that other districts may see a much larger impact due to higher poverty levels.

One of the biggest concerns for the local economy is the cuts to the Department of Defense. According to the White House, approximately 29,000 civilian Department of Defense employees in Washington state would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $173.4 million in total. Army Base operation funding would be cut by about $124 million while funding for Air Force operations in Washington would be cut by about $3 million. Over in Bremerton, the Navy would cancel aircraft depot maintenance at Whidbey Island.

South Puget Sound News checked with both the City of DuPont and the Town of Steilacoom to see what their concerns were over the March 1 spending cuts. City Administrator Dawn Masko wrote in an email that even though DuPont doesn’t receive any direct funding from the federal programs that will be impacted by sequestration, that doesn’t mean the city will not be impacted.

“It is anticipated that there will be $57 million in lost wages for furloughed civilian personnel and up to $461 million in lost infrastructure investment on bases and in surrounding communities.  As you know, we have a high military population in DuPont with over 60 percent of our population being associated in some capacity – active duty, reserve, Department of Defense, retired, or civilian contractors.  Thirty eight percent of those are currently active duty.  Sequestration will have an overwhelming impact on these families and therefore on our community as a whole.  DuPont could anticipate a direct impact to sales taxes as a result of reduced consumption, especially in discretionary activities such as eating out at local restaurants and/or patronizing local businesses,” she explained.

Steilacoom Town Administrator Paul Loveless agreed, and added, “I believe the proposed cuts may impact specific portions of the local economy and individuals, but it’s hard to provide a quantifiable number.”

In addition to education and hits to the local economy, the White House says Washington would lose about $3,301,000 in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Washington could lose another $924,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

Also, despite the increased number of whooping cough cases in the state, around 2,850 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $195,000.

Today, Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray delivered a speech on the Senate floor in support of the Democratic proposal to replace the across the board budget cuts from sequestration.

“After two years of watching our economy lurch from crisis to crisis, I think we can all agree the American people have dealt with more than enough of this,” said Sen. Murray in a press release.

On Wednesday, Washington Rep. Adam Smith, who is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, introduced a bill titled the Sequestration Relief Act of 2013. In a press release from Rep. Smith’s office, the bill is described as “a responsible approach designed to eliminate sequestration and implement an alternative spending plan that is designed to provide certainty to our economy, the Department of Defense, and the entire federal government.”  You can read more about Rep. Smith’s proposed bill, linked here.

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2 Comments

  1. jd1958 February 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm - 

    Stop the fear mongering!!!! This is not a cut at all. It is a slow down in spending. Okay here are some easy numbers so you can understand what is going on. The Federal Budget is and has gone up from the last fiscal year. So if you were good last year. There is no decrease. The government got “$10″ last year. it’s getting $15 this year. Of this $15 1.1% is being cut this year and 1.1 % next. For a total of 2.2% out of the $15. The total “cut” abouts to a .30cents reduction out of the $15. So the government is not going to get it’s $10 as it did last year, but $14.70 and not the $15 it wanted…..Oh how the sky is falling!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. RealDuPont March 2, 2013 at 8:42 am - 

    I see several parallels in the sequester situation with our own town. The blueprint is the same.

    Make foolish financial decisions, then
    borrow money to finance unrealistic projects, then
    do absolutely nothing about problem for years, then
    seek tax increases at eleventh hour to save above, then
    create fear of lost services if plan rejected, then
    eschew any responsibility and assign blame elsewhere, then
    move onto next crisis having learned nothing.

    The End.

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South Puget Sound News is the local news source for DuPont and Steilacoom. We report on and share news regarding local schools and businesses, government and politics, non-profits and the people who make this a great place to live. South Puget Sound News is owned by C.E.M. Communications, L.L.C.