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Federal sequestration will cut north country school budgets

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Across-the-board, automatic federal spending cuts took effect Friday, and north country schools will see decreases in aid that could put programs and staffing at risk.

The cuts, known as sequestration, will reduce education funding, specifically primary- and secondary-education funding, in New York state by $42.7 million in the first year alone.

Sequestration also would reduce federal aid for children with disabilities by $36.3 million.

The White House issued a news release estimating that sequestration would put roughly 520 teacher and teacher aide jobs at risk and compromise educational quality for 70,000 students across the state.

James R. Koch, business manager at Indian River Central School District, said sequestration will seriously affect his district, which serves a large population of military families in tax-exempt housing.

Mr. Koch said he expects to lose roughly $1 million in federal aid, with another $128,000 in cuts lined up for the fall. Indian River receives roughly $18.8 million in federal aid each year.

“Nobody else has something that looks like that,” Mr. Koch said of the district’s reliance on federal aid.

Mr. Koch said Indian River is as prepared as it can be. “In March 2012, we accounted for the sequester,” he said.

He said the district’s 2012-13 budget did not include $1 million in federal aid.

“There is no near-term impact, because it’s not on this year’s budget,” Mr. Koch said. “We are naturally conservative when it comes to these things.”

Potsdam Central School District Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said sequestration also will negatively affect his district.

“At this time, when we are trying to put together a budget, it’s a real concern that we are going to lose this important aid,” Mr. Brady said.

Business Manager Laura Hart said Potsdam is looking at a $60,000 to $70,000 cut in federal funding.

Mr. Brady said he doesn’t think that sequestration will affect the current fiscal year, but the 2013-14 budget will take a hit.

“Given that we’re already cutting and dealing with a major deficit due to the lack of state aid, we would once again be put in a position to look at cutting expenditures, which would include staffing,” Mr. Brady said.

He said the money his district stands to lose is roughly equivalent to a teaching position.

“The federal sequestration could have a significant impact on a very difficult situation,” said Ogdensburg City School District Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey.

Mr. Vernsey said Ogdensburg stands to lose roughly $60,000 with the 10 percent cut to Title 1 funding that went into effect Friday.

“We’d have less money for staff development,” he said. “It probably wouldn’t result in any staff cuts.”

However, Mr. Vernsey cautioned that he still does not know what the total cut will be. He said he expects to learn more over the coming weeks.

Massena Central School District Superintendent Roger B. Clough II said he is unsure of the exact amount of aid his district stands to lose.

“Any reduction in school aid due to sequestration will deepen districts’ financial problems,” Mr. Clough said. “In the end, sequestration will hurt the kids in our region.”

Johnson Newspapers writers Bob Beckstead and Benny Fairchild contributed to this report.

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