Barring decisive action by Congress, the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration will take effect Friday, March 1, slashing defense spending, and affecting dozens of education, health and labor programs in N.C..
Ashe County officials do not yet have a clear idea what federal budget cuts would mean for the county.
“It’s too early to tell,” said Ashe County Emergency Services Coordinator Patty Gambill. “It could affect our grant funding.”
Through the Department of Homeland Security, the state receives funding through the Emergency Management Performance Grants Program. Funds are distributed to the counties based on their meeting of emergency preparedness goals and objectives.
Ashe County Schools Assistant Superintendent Phyllis Yates said the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has advised school districts to prepare for budget cuts of six to nine percent for the next two years.The child nutrition program would not be affected, she said.
“It’s one more hit to public education,” Yates said. “One more hit to our students.”
County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell could not be reached for comment by press time.
A 2012 Senate Appropriations Committee report issued analyzed the state-level effects of sequestration’s domestic spending cuts for fiscal years 2013-21. According to the report, sequestration cuts in N.C. would include:
- $13.4 million from Head Start
- $5.9 million from child care and development block grants
- $ 5 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- $3 million from substance abuse and prevention
- $1.7 million from senior nutrition
- $34 million from Title I grants to Local Education Agencies
Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that as many as 29,000 N.C. civilian defense employees would be affected by the cuts, seeing their gross pay reduced by furloughs.
“We do not see any potential layoffs between now and the end of the school year of teachers,” Gov. McCrory said. “The Head Start Program, we do not see impact at least through June 30, however, after that we will have to find some money to fill in some gaps.”
A White House Office of Management and Budget report showed that sequestration would cut 9.4 percent from discretionary defense spending, and 10 percent from direct defense spending. Domestic discretionary spending would be reduced 8.2 percent, and domestic direct spending 7.6 percent.
According to the OMB report, the 1.3 trillion in sequestration cuts will include:
- $323 million from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- $13.5 billion from military operations
- $375 million from FEMA disaster relief
- $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health
- $1.94 billion from public housing
- $323 million from immigration enforcement
A component of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the sequester was included as an incentive for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — known as the Supercommittee — to draft a plan to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years. The committee failed to do so.
The sequester was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, 2013, but a last-minute “fiscal cliff deal” between Congress and the White House postponed sequestration until March, 1.