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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 13th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 1 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 1

Gauging the sequester's effects could take a while

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

It’s a bit tricky to truly calculate the effects of the automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequestration enacted on March 1. There are estimates, guesses, and big numbers behind dollar signs, but until the final budgets are out or the higher rungs of government show exactly where the knife will cut, many agencies are simply waiting.

“We are awaiting sequestration direction from our higher headquarters at Air Force Space Command,” Col. Brent McArthur, voice commander of Vandenberg Air Force Base’s 30th Space Wing, wrote in an e-mail to the Sun.

He added that they were expecting a 20 percent reduction in civilian workforce hours that could complicate mission planning for launches—though he noted that they could work around such a challenge.

“We will need to adjust the way we do a few things, but we will do our best to maintain our capabilities to provide access to and from space,” McArthur wrote.

A press release put out by the White House said California would have to reduce gross pay for Department of Defense civilian employees by $399.4 million. Funding for U.S. Air Force operations in the state will be cut by about $15 million.

The press release also said low-income college students will be affected by the sequestration, estimating that 9,600 fewer low-income students in California will receive financial aid and approximately 3,690 fewer students will get work-study jobs to help pay for school.

Allan Hancock College Public Information Specialist Sarah Thien said the estimates predict a 5 percent loss in federal funding for their work-study program, which would cost the college $11,000. The college currently has 45 students enrolled in the program.

California is slated to lose approximately $87.6 million in federal funding for primary and secondary education through sequestration, according to the White House release. Those cuts will most impact Title 1 students with disabilities and English-learning programs, said Priscilla Diamond, administrator of school business advisory services for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

School districts won’t feel the crunch until they start working on their 2013-2014 budgets, because money for 2012-2013 fiscal year has already been apportioned.

Diamond said the county has looked at preliminary estimates that call for 6 percent cuts for next year. That estimate would translate to approximately $1.5 million in cuts spread among the county’s 20 districts.

Santa Maria-Bonita School District spokesperson Maggie White said nothing is certain, but the district is planning to be conservative with its budget and is overestimating the cuts. Santa Maria-Bonita is setting its expectations for up to a 10 percent reduction in its budget for the 2013-2014 school year.

She said that before the district makes any rash calls, leaders are waiting on final budget numbers from both the state and the feds. She said things can change from one minute to the next.

“You absolutely have to wait until budgets are set in stone,” she said. “Otherwise it’s just an effort in futility.”