Agencies await word on cutsMeals on Wheels, public schools, special education and early childhood education programs in the Jamestown area may all be impacted by the $85 billion in federal spending cuts that went into effect Saturday. Local officials for these services said they won’t know exactly how much will be cut from their federal funding sources until next month.
By: By Chris Olson, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Meals on Wheels, public schools, special education and early childhood education programs in the Jamestown area may all be impacted by the $85 billion in federal spending cuts that went into effect Saturday.
Local officials for these services said they won’t know exactly how much will be cut from their federal funding sources until next month.
The across-the-board federal spending cuts are part the Budget Control Act of 2011. The cuts were put in place to force Congress to implement a better combination of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the overall federal budget deficit. The deadline to avoid the cuts was Friday, but neither the U.S. Senate nor House of Representatives was able to agree on legislation to avoid the cuts going into effect.
The James River Senior Citizens Center spent $499,000 in 2012 providing meals to senior residents in Stutsman, Wells and Sheridan counties through the Meals on Wheels program.
“We received $215,867.49 in federal funds for the Meals on Wheels program,” said Laurie McGuire, the center’s executive director.
“We haven’t heard what cuts we will be facing,” she said.
Reduced federal funds are not a new problem for the program which provides meals to senior citizens, either at their homes or at feeding sites throughout the three-county region.
McGuire said the problem the JRSCC has in being part of the Meals on Wheels program is that it has to meet all of the federal government requirements such as nutritional standards in order to receive any federal funds.
“Even after the federal funds run out, we provide meals for our seniors 12 months out of the year,” she said.
The federal government has strict regulations as to the content of each meal.
“We have huge raw food costs,” McGuire said. “You have to have a certain amount of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and protein in each meal. It drives up the cost.”
For 2011 the preparation costs for each meal was $7.79, McGuire said.
“We make up the difference through fundraisers,” she said. “Fortunately we live in a very generous community.”
Head Start Jamestown Program Director Tammy Hoggarth said she was told by officials that provide federal grant funds for the program to begin planning for cuts before she knows what those cuts will be.
“We’ll do the best we can and find the least painful route possible,” she said.
A general guideline that Hoggarth has received from federal officials is a 5 percent cut from each grant. She said the state receives 10 federal grants for the Head Start program and three for Native American programs that provide similar services.
“I think we’ll know a lot more in 30 days,” Hoggarth said. “We’re used to this, not knowing what is happening with our federal funding. It tends to go up and down each year.”
Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Bob Toso said he hasn’t heard the final word on how much federal funding sources will be cut for the school district. He said a 5 percent cut is what was suggested by federal officials.
JPS Business Manager/Human Resources Director Sally Ost said the district received $802,547 in Title I federal funds, $243,505 in Title II funds, and $679,600 for the district’s special education program for the 2012-13 school year. Title I funds are used for kindergarten through fifth grade reading programs. Title II funds are used for professional development of the district’s teachers and professional staff.
Toso said the district will know more in April.
“I think the Congress will address these cuts to education and other programs before the end of the month,” he said.
Robert A. Gleason, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, deferred questions about the federal cuts to Dave Ozman, USGS spokesman for the central states area.
“I don’t have a lot of information,” he said. “The USGS is evaluating how the cuts will impact all areas of operation.”
Ozman said no furlough notices have been sent to any employees at Northern Prairie.
Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com