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Suffolk prepares for sequestration hit

Published 10:37pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sequestration’s impact on Virginia this year would cut $14 million from primary and secondary education, risking the positions of 190 teachers and teacher’s aides, according to the White House.

A briefing released Sunday on how automatic federal budget cuts could impact the commonwealth also outlined $13.9 million less for educating children with disabilities, which would affect about 170 teachers and other school district staff.

Suffolk Public Schools’ finance director, Wendy Forsman, who went into greater detail at a recent School Board meeting, stated that sequestration would mean fewer teachers and cuts to staff development for teachers serving children “who need the most assistance.” “Supplemental programs after school would certainly change or happen less often,” she added.

For college students, the White House briefing says, about 2,120 fewer with low incomes would receive federal college aid, while 840 fewer would get work-study jobs that help with college costs.

Pre-kindergarten education would also suffer a blow, with about 1,000 fewer Virginia children having access to Head Start and Early Head Start.

Forsman stated that the operating fund would be unable to pick up lost supplemental federal funds, “given the major reductions to state and local funding that has occurred over the last five years.”

“Most families do not realize that services that have been provided for years under these entitlement programs would be affected,” she continued.

“The impact would be mostly in federal programs offered to children and parents after school and Saturdays, professional development of teachers, and in number of staff assisting children who are eligible for the federal program support.”

One of the biggest local sequestration impacts would be to the military and its contractors. The White House says that about 90,000 Virginia-based civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, and Air Force funding would be cut by $8 million and Army funding by about $146 million.

Maintenance would be canceled on 11 ships home-ported in Norfolk, and the deferment of four projects would hit Virginia Beach’s Oceana, Norfolk, and Dahlgren in Northern Virginia, while other “modernization and demolition projects” would be delayed.

Many federal government contractors in North Suffolk would be expected to feel the effects of tighter defense budgets. Last year, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Stevens stated that Lockheed Martin believes sequestration “is the single greatest challenge facing our company and our industry.”

Suffolk businessman William Blair, of construction firm The Blair Brothers, noted that military personnel who frequent Harbour View eateries, particularly those in Harbour View East, adjacent to Joint and Coalition and Warfighting, are already “seen less and less” since downsizing two years ago. “It’s going to be quite a slam, I believe,” he said.

Other Virginia impacts outlined by the White House include the loss of about $276,000 in Justice Assistance Grants, which support “law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.”

About 18,390 fewer Virginians would receive employment assistance with the loss of $343,000 in job search assistance, referral and placement funding, while the parents of up to 400 disadvantaged and vulnerable children would find holding down a job more difficult with the loss of access to child care, the White House estimated.

On the health care front, a cut of about $241,000 to vaccination funding would see around 3,530 fewer children protected against diseases and illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, influenza and Hepatitis B.

The commonwealth would receive $764,000 less toward enhancing its ability to respond to public health threats like infectious diseases, hurricanes and nuclear incidents, and $2 million less in grants to prevent substance abuse, resulting in about 1,700 fewer admissions to programs, according to the White House report.

About 8,400 fewer HIV tests would be performed with the Virginia State Department of Health losing funding of about $337,000.

Virginia could also lose $172,000 in domestic violence funding, affecting 700 victims, and $1.2 million would be cut from meals for seniors.

Environmental restoration and protection programs would also be hit, with the loss of $3 million in funding for clean water and air quality and $826,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

Blair said that a “domino effect” would hit local businesses as Washington cuts state grants and the commonwealth, in turn, passes less largesse on to localities.

Businesses like his that rely on municipal work would see fewer contracts for new projects, while maintenance orders, such as to fix potholes, should be less affected, he said.

“When their budgets are clobbered real hard, they have to pick and choose the most efficient jobs,” Blair said. “It’s going to have a domino effect right down to the fast-food restaurant.”

His business has made plans for dealing with sequestration, he said, but “we can’t cut back long-time employees.”

“Thank goodness there are a lot of potholes,” he added.

Longtime Suffolk real estate agent Billy Chorey said sequestration’s psychological effects would create hesitancy among homebuyers and sellers.

“Whether it’s real or not, here in Suffolk it’s real from a psychological standpoint if nothing else,” he said.

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  • Johnny

    Reporter Matthew Ward: you are only citing White House press briefings…really?! You should be ashamed. You are regurgitating the same useless rhetoric that Jay Carney spits out daily. Do you even care about your job? This is pathetic journalism Matt…..you can do better.

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  • Norseman

    It is unfortunate that instead of digging into the facts all the reporters except a few are paroting the what is said by the fear mongers. Schools and first reponders are always the targets because low information voters never take the time to think or look beyond 3-10-13 news stories. Even King Obama has backed off the hyporbole this week a little. Anyone that has worked for the City/State/or Federal govt is well aware of, we can cut quite deep if we have the guts to do it and very little pain would be involved. True, some of the Govt workers would not get raises again but still having a great paying job with outstanding benifits can be its own reward. And if you don’t like the job quit and look for another that pays better!! GOOD LUCK.

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    • ANewCreation

      Federal government workers have already gone 3 years without a COLA. We are also facing 22 days without pay (can’t use vacation time either) that will start in April due to sequestration. It will be a day off a week without pay for twenty two weeks. How many other government agiencies (state or city) are willing to take those cuts in pay? As for the so called benifits…federal government employees (since 1984) pay in to SS and into their own 401K. Those employed prior to 1984 pay into their own retirement! Our health care options get smaller by the year and the cost is astronomical!

      It is easy to lump all government workers in with the bozo’s up in DC and their greed but most fed. government workers are no better off than anyone else that has a job. I know because I have been a civil service worker for 37 years. I am thankful for my job but it is NOT all pie in the sky like everyone spouts off.

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  • happyGoLucky

    I have been a huge supporter of SPS Superintendents in the past. However, the actions of current spineless jellyfish have forced me to withdraw that support. I would like to publicly announce that the current Superintendent is a spineless, Obama clone who lacks the mental capacity to develop sound and intelligent policies. Where does the lunacy stop????

    @a.m. …as much as it pains me to say this..guess you were right after all….silly me.

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    • am

      Since this is my first post to this article, please tell me what I was right about. It happens so infrequently.

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  • TB_suffolklady

    THE SUPERINTENDENT HAS ALREADY LAID OFF PEOPLE. It’s been hush hush…..he’s cutting left and right. The extra curriculars that are not sports are ALREADY not funded. Those teachers are only working for FREE.

    The public needs to know these things

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  • Roger Leonard

    If we cannot cut less than 2% of our spending without the entire world coming to an end, we are doomed. Actually, we are talking about a small cut to more spending than last year, not real cuts.

    The fact is, we will spend more this year than last year even with these cuts. Seems like hype and non-sense to me…

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  • id0030

    Schools are for education. Why are all the cuts to teachers and educational programs. The first area for cuts should be to the athletic and other extra curricular programs. They are nice to have but not essential for an academic education.

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    • happyGoLucky

      Because we have a Superintendent that does not have the mental capacity to lead…or make sound decisions or stand up for his employees… Much like the CM, he’s sitting fat and happy, who cares about the assorted parts that make the engine run..

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  • 7l

    Why not the city manager’s job and save 4 teacher’s jobs?

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