Schools could lose federal funding

Published 12:04 am Thursday, February 21, 2013

If the U.S. Congress allows sequestration to stand on March 1, it could mean cuts of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding, school officials said this week.

Sequestration was used in the Budget Control Act of 2011 as a tool in federal budget control. The act authorized an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling in exchange for $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the following 10 years, including $1.2 trillion in specific cuts. An additional $1.2 trillion in cuts was to be determined by a “super committee” of U.S. senators and representatives. If the super committee fails to reach an agreement, sequestration will be implemented March 1.

What that means is a cut of between $40,000 to $100,000 in federal funds for each local school system.

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said sequestration will have an effect similar to state proration in programs such as special education, Title I and Title II would be affected.

Watson said educators have been told to expect 5 percent to 9 percent cuts in federal funding.

“We’re hoping that doesn’t happen,” he said.

ACS chief financial officer Jean Sellers estimated cuts to Title I and Title II would be about $50,000 each, or approximately the equivalent of one teaching unit.

Federal meal programs are not expected to be affected, she said.

Sales tax collections are about 11 percent ahead of last year, Watson said. But with sequestration, any gains would be a wash.

County School Superintendent Terry Holley said there is a lot to lose – $50,000 in Title I money alone.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t take place, but we’re watching it closely,” Holley said.

For Opp City Schools, it would mean a cut of approximately $40,000; however, Superintendent Michael Smithart said the system is prepared.

More specifically, OCS is preparing to lose $15,000 in IDEA Part B appropriations and $17,000 in Title I funding.

“We had worked the 5.1 percentage into carryover funds to account for this, so I don’t believe there will be an immediate crisis in spending,” he said. “If there is not a long-term solution, then annual cuts over the 10-year period would certainly be problematic. Due to the fact that we have accounted for sequestration, my focus is on a continuing resolution.

“If a continuing resolution is not passed, we may see a ‘shut-down,’” he said. “If that occurs, we still have to pay bills without the federal reimbursement until it is resolved.  I see that as a much greater immediate threat.”