The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 27, 2013

Locals to feel federal cuts

Sequester set to begin Friday


DANVILLE — A contingency plan CRIS Senior Services’ Amy Marchant hoped never would have to be used could be set in motion as a result of the federal government budget standoff.

Marchant said she received word earlier this week from various funding agencies that CRIS should be ready to have its plan in place in case the sequester of federal funds begins on Friday.

If Congress cannot reach a deal by Friday, $85 billion in automatic across-the-board budget cuts will occur at the federal level.

She said some of the major programs that fall under CRIS would be affected, including care-giving as well as the Meals on Wheels program. Marchant said she was most worried about the Meals on Wheels program because of the waiting list the program already has.

If the sequester is instituted, the Meals on Wheels program will take a major hit as the funding cuts will force a change in the eligibility criteria for the program.

“A lot of folks that are in need for something like Meals on Wheels will have to find alternative ways to get food and potentially move toward a nursing home facility in some cases,” she said Thursday.

As an example, Marchant said CRIS officials would change the criteria to look at who is most in need of the meals and try to supply them first before moving on to other elderly residents.

As of Thursday, it was not immediately clear exactly how drastic the cuts could be to each of the CRIS programs. Marchant noted some programs are solely state funded or receive a combination of state and federal funds, creating additional confusion about what money will be available in the wake of a sequester.

Cuts will hurt schools

District 118 Schools Superintendent Mark Denman said the sequestration could cost the Danville school district “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.

Denman said he believes the district will lose about 5.4 percent of its federal funding, which would amount to a loss of about $200,000.

“It will affect us next year,” he said. “It will be hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Diane Hampel, director of Educational Support, however, said she was told the federal government might lower education allocations to 85 percent of funding levels and to budget accordingly, starting with the 2013-14 school year.

A 15 percent cut in federal funding would amount to a loss to District 118 of $700,000 or $800,000 a year.

“When we first heard about this last summer, we thought it was going to affect us immediately on January 1,” she said of sequestration. “But instead it will have an effect on the 2013-14 school year.”

The short reprieve is little consolation for the school district that already has been dealing with delayed and reduced state aid payments and a reduction in local property tax revenue due to the area’s declining equalized assessed valuation.

“It’s a triple hit,” Hampel said.

“Title I is just one part of it,” she said of the federal funding that is based on the prevalence of poverty in a school district and which District 118 receives to provide services and interventions for at-risk students.

“We don’t anticipate it will impact staff, but it will affect professional development,” Hampel said.

The loss of federal dollars also will impact the amount the district receives from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grant, which helps fund special education services.

“The district will have to pick up more of the cost for special education services next year,” she said.

City not sure about cuts

The impact to the city is expected to be minimal but still remains fully unknown by city officials of the automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies totaling $1.2 trillion during the next 10 years.

According to Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, he said from what he is being told, the sequestration cuts would not impact money to Danville Mass Transit operations.

The federal spending cuts could have some impact on DMT capital projects.

It would not affect Community Oriented Policing Services because the city is no longer receiving federal funding for that program. This is the city’s year of obligatory funding.

Community Development Block Grant funding is still unknown, according to Eisenhauer.

The city receives a little more than $800,000 annually in CDBG funding for community and economic development projects.

According to DMT director John Metzinger, “we’re expecting little impact to DMT’s federal transit funding, since it comes from the Highway Trust Fund which is exempt from federal sequestration cuts. However, so much is unknown at this point in time and it is the uncertainty that makes us nervous.”

Commercial-News reporters Brian Huchel, Carol Roehm and Jennifer Bailey contributed to this report.