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Federal sequestration will cut local school budgets


POTSDAM – With Congress unable to avoid sequestration by today, schools will see their budgets affected by automatic federal spending cuts.

Sequestration will cut education funding across the board, specifically reducing primary and secondary education funding in New York state by $42.7 million in the first year alone.

Sequestration also would reduce federal aid for New York’s children with disabilities by $36.3 million.

The White House issued a news release estimating that sequestration would put about 520 teacher and teacher aide jobs at risk in the state.

Head Start programs also are on the chopping block.

Potsdam Central School Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said sequestration will affect his district when the planned 10 percent cut to Title 1 funding goes into effect.

“At this time, when we are trying to put together a budget, it’s a real concern that we are going to lose this important aid,” Mr. Brady said. “These are teachers and teacher assistants who work with students who are most at risk to not meet the education standards.”

Potsdam District Business Manager Laura A. Hart said the district is looking at a $60,000 to $70,000 cut in federal funding.

Mr. Brady said he spoke with a representative from Rep. William L. Owens’s office last week and that wasn’t a conversation that gave him optimism that a deal would be reached, so school officials have been getting ready for the cuts.

Mr. Brady said he doesn’t think sequestration will affect the current fiscal year, but the 2013-14 budget will take a hit.

Massena Central School Superintendent Roger B. Clough II said, “Any reduction in school aid due to sequestration will deepen districts’ financial problems. In the end, sequestration will hurt the kids in our region.”

He said estimates indicate that New York would lose around $609 million in promised federal aid in areas such as health care, government services and education.

“If state officials divided that cut evenly, education would have lost one-third of the governor’s promised $600 million increase in ’13-14 school aid. Those estimates do not include any additional losses of federal Title I (aid to poor school districts) and IDEA (special education) grants or Medicaid payments to schools,” Mr. Clough said.

“Cuts to school aid can only be made up through higher taxes or cuts to programs. The tax levy cap makes tax increases unlikely,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers writers Benny Fairchild and Bob Beckstead contributed to this report.

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