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SVUSD leaders talk sequester cuts
District expected to lose more than $1 million by 2014, official says
WASHINGTON, D.C. • Officials from the Silver Valley Unified School District were in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to champion a halt to 10-year automatic budget cuts which have already reduced funding to the district by more than half a million dollars.
The cuts, known as the sequester, went into affect March 1 and are the government’s way of attempting to reduce about $1 trillion of the national deficit.
These cuts are particularly harsh on districts that rely uniquely on impact aid, or federal funding, which is predominantly those districts serving large numbers of children of military or Native Americans. Sixty-one percent of students in the SVUSD are military-dependent.
As a result, the local district lost $538,000 of impact aid to sequestration cuts during the 2012-13 school year and is set to lose an additional $500,000 in 2013-14, according to Superintendent Marc Jackson.
Jackson called the hits “unimaginable.”
He was joined Tuesday by district Board President Karen Gray and Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jill Kemock, along with other education leaders for the fall conference of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, of which SVUSD is a part.
Leaders met in an extension of the White House, said Jackson, who added that SVUSD officials also spent time with aides of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
“The sense that I’m getting ... is these cuts of sequestration aren’t going away anytime soon,” Jackson said Tuesday. “Bad news for impact aid districts.”
Standing in the way of a foreseeable remedy for impacted districts such as SVUSD may be what some have called an approaching budget showdown between Democrats and Republicans.
On Oct. 1, the government will reach its borrowing limit unless Congress raises the debt ceiling.
“The budget is being kicked around right now,” Jackson said. “Both sides are dug in until resolution. We’re somewhere in the conversation down the road.”
District officials, who began planning for then-looming sequestration cuts last fall, will return to Washington next year for the NAFIS spring conference.
“We will not stop,” Jackson said. “It’s in our best interest to be here. We need to plead our case.”
The district’s reserves are currently healthy and they’ll continue to fund programs, Jackson said. However, further impact aid cuts may at some point require they take a difficult look into how they spend their money.
“As we move down the road, our options become less,” he said. “When it becomes apparent we’re at that stage, we have no other choice but to take that information to the board and staff. How do we run programs? Because something has to change.”
“I don’t think we’re at that stage,” he continued, “but I’m concerned.”
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.