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Sequestration will cut funding going to Elkhart County schools, cities

There are a lot of unknowns with implementation of mandatory federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, but Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman and an Elkhart teacher's union leader say there will be a local impact and the cuts will take a toll.
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on March 4, 2013 at 3:33 p.m.

Sequestration isn’t just some abstraction in Washington, D.C.

Officials in Elkhart County say the mandatory mix of budget cuts, left as is, will take a toll locally. The number of special education teachers in Elkhart schools could face trimming and municipal offerings reliant on federal funds — housing programs geared to low-income residents, say, or bike paths — could take a hit.

Municipalities have been scaling back to increase efficiencies “but we can’t keep seeing these type of programs being cut without reducing services to our residents,” Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman said in a teleconference on the matter Monday, March 4.

“A lot of this is still unknown for us, but it sure makes us nervous about what we’re going to be able to continue in the future.”

Alex Holtz, president of the Elkhart Teacher’s Association and a math teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School, said the cuts could result in a loss of perhaps $500,000 to Elkhart Community Schools. That’s 5 percent of the $10 million or so the district gets from the feds each year.

With a big part of federal funding going toward special education, Holtz worries the end result could be the loss of six to eight special education jobs in the district. Title I money from the feds will also likely take a hit, adversely impacting the low-income students the funding pool is meant to help.

Monday’s teleconference was sponsored by the Indiana branch of Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group that has been touting an alternative to sequestration containing a mix of new revenues and spending cuts.

Sequestration, meant to help trim the U.S. deficit, calls for $85 billion in federal spending cuts through September. It formally went into effect last Friday after Democrats and Republicans were unable to reach middle ground on an alternate plan. Democrats, like participants in Monday’s teleconference, have called for a mix of spending cuts and new revenues in any replacement plan while Republicans have said the focus should be on just spending cuts.

VARIED, WIDE-RANGING IMPACT

Monday’s teleconference wasn’t the only place sequestration received attention.

Elkhart County Administrator Tom Byers had discussed the matter with Elkhart County Transportation Manager Jeff Taylor, trying to brace for the potential aftershocks. Byers isn’t sure exactly where to expect a funding hit, he said, but since the county gets federal grant money, he suspects there will be an impact.

Later Monday, Kauffman released a letter received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development outlining the likely impact to locales like Goshen that get HUD dollars. Community Development Block Grant funding and money for other HUD programs will likely fall by 5 percent, according to the letter.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued a press release Monday saying federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, those having received 27 or more weeks worth of assistance, will be reduced by 10.7 percent starting March 31, per the U.S. Department of Labor. That’ll impact 33,000 Hoosiers.

On the bright side, Pence said Indiana would be able to counter $4.1 million in expected cuts to the state’s Women Infants and Children, or WIC, program, maintaining full benefits for all recipients.

Close to home, Pence said the Indiana National Guard would hold off on awarding $30 million in military construction projects in South Bend and Terre Haute. Some 1,000 military technicians for the guard statewide will face unpaid one-day-a-week furloughs from the end of April through September.




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