Does the proposed federal sequestration on Friday, March 1, have any consequence for Belmont? Indeed, it does. Here’s what the Office of the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education has issued:
“March 1 is the current deadline for Congress to act to avoid the automatic spending cuts under sequestration, although few will be surprised if the federal budget debate extends into spring and summer. If sequestration occurs, it has been suggested that federal K-12 education spending might be cut in the range of six percent. It is too early to tell how that would translate into individual district allotments for individual programs. Any cuts to education spending won’t have an impact until July 1 at the earliest. We urge distr4icts to take a conservative approach in estimating federal grant revenues as you continue your work on Fiscal Year 2014 budgets.”
In our current budget submission we took what we thought was a conservative position and assumed that federal grants would be level-funded. To cut an additional 6% or 7% from federal grants in a budget that already represents essentially a half-million-dollar cut in services is painful and difficult, especially for the various populations served by federal grants: students of special needs, students on free or reduced lunch, students whose primary language is other than English, and—in truth—all students because all benefit from the federal lunch program and the array of district-wide services supported by the federal entitlement programs.
The political logjam in Washington has direct, local consequences. Approximately $6 million of the school department’s budget comes from sources other than the general fund. Most of those sources are the various “entitlement” grants. A cut in real dollars of an additional $350,000 is certainly meaningful.