Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 28, 2013

Sequester would affect schools

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It’s unknown exactly what would happen Friday, but if the deep federal budget cuts, or sequestration, takes place, schools will feel some kind of effect.

According to data from the New York State School Boards Association, it is estimated New York schools would lose over $102 million in federal aid if the $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts takes effect Friday. Districts on average stand to lose $171,410 in federal funding for 2013-14 school year.

Individually, local districts could see a hit. NYSSBA estimates Barker would lose $24,535 in federal funding, while Lockport City Schools might see a $167,753 hit. Newfane could lose $42,509, Royalton-Hartland $33,392, Starpoint $41,954 and Wilson $29,225.

Sequestration talk has cropped up at a number of local Board of Education meetings recently. Like all districts in New York, schools are trying to put together their budgets for the 2013-14 school year.

At a meeting Tuesday in Wilson, board members went over the current form of the budget, while talking about the tax levy cap. Schools have to build a budget without knowing particulars, such as state aid or possibly certain expenses or financial challenges. This year, federal sequestration is a possible challenge districts have to grapple with, even without knowing its effects yet.

President Timothy Kropp said often lawmakers use a scare tactic, but it doesn’t end up having the tremendous effect they said it would.

”You listen to the TV now, the world is going to come to an end Saturday morning,” he said. “A lot of times, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

At the Starpoint Board of Education meeting on Monday, Jonathan Andrews, the district’s director of administrative services, informed board members the cuts would be roughly 5 percent of federal funds. If sequesrestration happens, there will have to be a discussion about the affected programs.

“We’d either have to abandon some of the programs in our grants, or move those costs into the general fund (regular budget, meaning the district would cover the entire cost,)” Andrews said. “We don’t know yet.”

Under the federal Budget Control Act of 2011, budget cuts of approximately $2 trillion over a 10-year period are required. For 2013 that means a 5.9 percent cut in Title I grants, which is $1 billion nationally, as well as special education cuts of $900 million nationally. Also, English Language Acquisition grants would be cut by $60 million nationwide. Universal prekindergarten would not be affected.

Sequestration cuts to these and other education programs will mean decreased access to programs for children with special needs, NYSSBA said.

SEQUESTER EFFECT What local districts might lose • Barker $24,535 • Lockport $167,753 • Newfane $42,509 • Royalton-Hartland $33,392 • Starpoint $41,954 • Wilson $29,225

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.