Federal Sequester Would Impact West Hartford School Funding

In a breakdown released Sunday by the Obama White House, officials say the automatic cuts that would take effect Friday could have broad implications for the state and country.

Connecticut could lose "thousands of middle class jobs" and "vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform" under the automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester that are looming this week, the White House said Sunday in a summary of the budget reductions.

West Hartford Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said that the impact on the town side would be "peanuts," affecting only small grants for fire or police equipment. However, he is concerned about the potential impact on the schools.

West Hartford Public Schools Director of Finance and Planning Chip Ward said the sequester's impact would be "noticeable, but small," decreasing Federal grants by an amount ranging from $160,000 to $250,000, depending on how cuts are implemented.

Van Winkle said he's worried about the cumulative impact of what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cuts, the vast  majority of which would affect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grant, Title I funding, and school lunches.

The impact would not be immediate, and the precise programs targeted by automatic cuts is not final, said Van Winkle.

"Washington is making a mess," he said. West Hartford's budget is being finalized for presentation in March, but Van Winkle is not making changes yet based on the sequester.

"No one believes they'll go through. We believe they will come to some resolution," Van Winkle said.

According to the White House, the budget cuts would see the state lose $8.7 million in education funding along with another $6.3 million in federal funds to help students with disabilities.

The cuts, the White House document says, would put "around 120 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 8,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 40 fewer schools would receive funding."

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy released a statement Monday on the cuts:

"The so-called sequester is another sad example of governing at its worst —Congress has to stop taking people’s jobs and our entire economy hostage to its own dysfunction. Friday’s deadline will bring devastating cuts to critical services and job losses in Connecticut and across the country. I strongly opposed the legislation that set this process in motion, and strongly support legislation to prevent the damage that these reckless cuts will do to our still fragile economy. It’s time for Congress to get over itself and work to make this right."

Other possible impacts of the sequestriation in Connecticut include:

  • Work-Study Jobs: Around 550 fewer low income students in Connecticut would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 470 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
  • Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 500 children in Connecticut, reducing access to critical early education.
  • Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water: Connecticut would lose about $2 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Connecticut could lose another $398,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
  • Military Readiness: In Connecticut, approximately 3,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $15 million in total.
  • Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution: Connecticut will lose about $153,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
  • Job Search Assistance to Help those in Connecticut find Employment and Training: Connecticut will lose about $242,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 10,650 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
  • Child Care: Up to 200 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.


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