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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sequestration losses range up to $200,000 in Elkhart County

Sequestration losses range up to $200,000 among Elkhart County agencies.

Posted on June 16, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Go here for more on the impact of sequestration to Elkhart County entities.

Here’s a look at the financial toll of sequestration on some agencies and offices in Elkhart County.

In many cases, the figures are estimates, subject to change, and the list doesn’t cover all the entities impacted here.

Still, they show sequestration isn’t some far-off abstraction in Washington, D.C. — the across-the-board federal budget cuts that went into effect March 1 are being felt on the local level. And impacted are some of the most needy and vulnerable segments of the population.

Elkhart Housing Authority: Federal funding to help cover the cost of operating its public housing units for the fiscal year starting April 1 dipped to $1.65 million, reflecting a loss of about $101,000 due to sequestration.

Funding to help cover its rent voucher program fell to $3.73 million, reflecting a loss of around $206,000 due to sequestration.

Reserves and cost-cutting measures dating to 2008 are helping it offset the losses, for now, according to Kim Sindle, executive director of the agency.

Council on Aging of Elkhart County: Federal funding for its transportation program in the fiscal year that starts July 1 is expected to dip from $94,000 to $73,000, mainly due to sequestration.

Executive Director Tammy Friesen worries the loss could lead to a reduction in rides it’s able to offer, from around 14,000 a year to 12,000.

Head Start: Funding in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties for the early education program, geared to low-income kids before they get to kindergarten, is expected to dip around $375,000, from $6.75 million in the 2012-2013 school year to around $6.4 million in the coming school year. Those funds cover the Head Start programs in the Elkhart, Concord, Goshen, Wa-Nee, Middlebury and Baugo school districts and in St. Joseph County’s public schools.

Moves to reduce health care costs of Head Start staffers will help offset the expected loss, for now, according to Kathy Guajardo, head of the Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties Head Start Consortium.

Special education: Funding for special education in the Goshen, Concord, Baugo, Wa-Nee, Middlebury and Fairfield school districts is tentatively expected to dip from around $5 million in the 2012-2013 school year to $4.9 million in the coming year. That’s from Mary Beth Hamilton, director of the Elkhart County Special Education Cooperative, which oversees special ed in the six school districts.

The school districts are required to maintain special education offerings, regardless of sequestration losses, according to Hamilton. Thus, individual school districts could be forced to tap other school funding pots to make up the difference.

Elkhart Community Schools’ special education programs aren’t overseen by the cooperative.

Title I: Title I funding, earmarked for schools with low-income students, will also take a hit.

Concord Community Schools Superintendent Wayne Stubbs said there, funding will dip by around $46,000 to $1.09 million in the coming school year. Minor staffing adjustments will help the district offset the loss.

The $46,000 dollar figure may not seem like a lot, but Stubbs notes that Indiana schools are already facing spending cuts due to property tax caps. “We can’t continue to take hits from all directions,” he said.

Elkhart County Health Department: Funding to help cover part of the Women, Infants and Children program here is expected to dip to $1.03 million in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, a loss of around $77,000.

A natural reduction in clients will help offset the loss, but some staffing reductions are also planned, according to Jenny Schrock, who oversees the program geared to low-income children and pregnant women.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack.

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