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March 1, 2013

Waiting to learn sequestration’s impact

GREENVILLE — Local school district officials and representatives with an agency which serves Hunt County’s senior citizens hope they have taken adequate precautions, should massive federal budget cuts known as sequestration kick in as expected today.

“If we didn’t, then we are going to have to cut services,” said David Caldwell, executive director of Senior Center Resources and Public Transit of Hunt County, which administers the county’s Meals on Wheels program.

Greenville Independent School District Superintendent Don Jefferies said the State of Texas withheld 10 percent of the federal funds from public schools at the beginning of this year’s budget.

“Therefore, we should not feel any negative impact initially when the sequester takes effect,” Jefferies said.

But even as the clock ticked down Thursday afternoon, it was unclear how much of an impact the cuts would have locally, or for how long.

“That is exactly what I do not know at this point and time,” Caldwell said.

Some analysts have pointed to how $400 million in cuts to the Head Start program could mean 70,000 fewer children enrolling in the pre-schools and daycare centers this fall.

The Greenville Independent School District administers Head Start in Greenville through the L.P. Waters Early Childhood Center.

Jefferies hopes the sequestration does not result in additional budget cuts for the district in the coming year.

“If in fact we are cut an additional 5 to 10 percent for the 2013-2014 year, we will be looking at a reduction in personnel and program services,” Jefferies said. “It would almost certainly mean significant cuts in our funding and therefore our services. We will take these factors into consideration as we develop next year’s district budget.”

Another estimate indicated as many as 4 million home-bound and disabled seniors may have to do without supper do to cuts to Meals on Wheels.

Caldwell said the Senior Center receives funding for the program through the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which receives the funds from the federal level.

“They are probably in the same situation we are,” Caldwell said, in that the agency may not be aware of the extent of the potential cuts.

“When they get cut we are going to get cut,” Caldwell said. “We do know it will have a negative impact on our Meals on Wheels program.”

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