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Federal sequestration will cut local school budgets

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POTSDAM – Unless Congress acts by Friday to avoid across-the-board, automatic federal spending cuts, area schools will see their budgets impacted.

The cuts, known as 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 would also reduce federal aid for New York’s children with disabilities by $36.3 million.

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

Additionally roughly 70,000 students across the state would lose federal funding.

Head Start programs are also on the chopping block.

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

“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 Hart said the district is looking at a $60,000 to $70,000 cut in federal funding if sequestration goes into effect on Friday.

Mr. Brady said he spoke with a representative from Congressman Bill Owens’ office last week and that wasn’t a conversation that gave him optimism that a deal would be reached.

“Anything I’ve read since then doesn’t give me much hope they are going to reach a deal either,” he said.

Mr. Brady said he doesn’t think sequestration will impact the current fiscal year, but the 2013-2014 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 noted estimates indicate that New York would lose an estimated $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.

Staff Writers Benny Fairchild and Bob Beckstead contributed to this report.

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