County sees mixed effects of federal government sequester

The first week of the sequester, a set of automatic spending cuts set to shave $85 billion from the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, has proven to be difficult for some programs in the county.
“The Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force are freezing funds and making tough decisions,” said Aberdeen Air Force JROTC Senior Airspace Science Instructor Lt. Col. Jeff ‘Cog’ Coggin.
The JROTC automatically lost more than $500 Thursday that was to pay for hotel accommodations for last weekend’s trip to the U.S. Space Center and Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. Aberdeen banks, Aberdeen Main Street and the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce ramped up efforts Friday and donated $350 to help fund the trip.
“Headquarters called Thursday to tell us not to plan trips and to reduce spending. It could be lean operations for several years. We will need to do a lot of fund-raising,” Coggin said.
With education, mainly Headstart and Title 1 programs, will see budget cuts although administrators are still unclear as to where and when it will begin.
“The only comment I have is that we’ve been told 5 percent will be cut from our budget,” said Aberdeen School District conservator Bob Strebeck.
Since 20 percent of Aberdeen’s budget is federal funds, a 5 percent cut could greatly affect the district.
Amory School District Superintendent Tony Cook echoed similar concerns.
“We have been told that there will be a 5 percent cut, but we haven’t been told anything else at this point. We feel like it will affect our funding,” Cook said.
Many mandatory programs, like Medicaid and Social Security, were exempt from the sequester. However, some low-income programs like aid for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are subject to cuts. District nutritionist Patricia Heflin declined to comment at this time.
Other federal programs that could be affected in Monroe County include local law enforcement, airports and federal courts.
In an interview with the Daily Journal, Judge Michael Mills didn’t anticipate any furloughs for staff during the current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1.
The federal court faced a 12.6 percent cut last year. Any budget cuts could mean less staff and longer waits for cases to go to trial.