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Area Braces for Effect of Sequester Budget Cuts

11:34 PM, Mar 2, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Federal employees and any agency, school or group that relies on funding from the federal government are getting ready for some serious belt-tightening over the next 30 days, and for the foreseeable future. 

Congress and the White House were unable to break their impasse over the automatic federal spending cuts known as the sequester. Phased in over the next month, the  massive cuts in military and domestic spending will be far-reaching.

 

The cuts are big, but the bigger concern right now is what kind of ripple effects they'll have on the recovering economy.

The automatic spending cuts will hit Western New York in the short term and gradually over the next seven months, which is when the current fiscal year ends in Washington.

Locally, there will be reductions to health care, military, border patrol and education. In the short term, Erie County will lose money for Meals on Wheels, home heating assistance and grants for community development.

 

"The kinds of cuts that we're talking about are going to affect the most at risk, the most in need, it's going to be cuts to early childhood education, it's going to be cuts to special education for their education," said Democrat U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

 

On the first full day of the sequester cuts House Speaker John Boehner was on home turf in Ohio telling his side of the story. "Leaders of both parties kick this can down the road, kick it down the road, kick it down the road, and I made up my mind two years ago we weren't going to do it anymore," Boehner said.

The White House and Republicans are blaming each other for $85 billion in across-the-board cuts the president calls outright dumb. "They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs," said President Obama, "and Congress can turn them off at any time ... as soon as both sides are willing to compromise."

"Anytime you cut $85 billion out of a budget there's going to be less services rendered and we got to hope that we're smart about what we do," said U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R - 27th District). 

 

Here's a look at the cuts which will impact services at public schools and possibly property taxes next school year.

According to the state School Boards Association, Buffalo is expected to get a $2.5 million cut. Niagara Falls schools will get roughly $315,000 taken away. Jamestown will likely get a $219,000 reduction.

The Sweet Home School District is facing about $80,000. We heard from the district's superintendent who says he doesn't expect any layoffs from the cuts next year, but special education materials, programs for low-income students and staff training will be hit.

Other school districts will have to look at being more efficient with the funding they get. Ellicottville, Gowanda, Williamsville -- just about every school district in our area -- will see some reduction.

The state school board association has warned that teachers could see pink slips later this spring that would be effective next school year. 

Long term, health care will take a beating. According to the Healthcare Association of New York State hospitals statewide will get a two percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements beginning April 1. For example, Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport will see $3.3 million slashed. Sisters Hospital in Buffalo will lose $8.7 million. And Kaleida Health, the region's largest employer gets it the worst with a $33 million dollar hit. 

"That directly impacts patient care, you're going to talk about limiting services, cutting jobs, restricting access, shutting down programs. That's a large number. I don't think we're crying wolf, this is a real issue and we're hoping it gets resolved," said Michael Hughes, the vice president and chief marketing officer for Kaleida Health.

There are also reductions planned to homeland security and food inspection.

Collins says what's at the heart of the issue is passing a federal budget, so that these budget battles don't happen so frequently.

Negotiations on fiscal issues are expected to pick up again early next week.

 

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