Groups Prepare for Local Impact of Sequestration

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email
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With the fiscal cliff being narrowly avoided before, the threat of sequestration isn't catching everyone's attention.

But cities and schools trying to plan for the future say not knowing how much federal funding will be available is a frustrating experience.

Hastings Public Works Director David Wacker says federal funding restructures are already costing Nebraska.

"Currently they're estimating that the state would receive about $10 million less in the next two years," says Wacker.

If sequestration, an automatic series of spending cuts Congress voted for should they not be able to pass a budget, goes into effect on March 1, Wacker says they have no idea how much more would be cut, but they know who it could cost.

"Your other funding methods are of course property tax, sales tax, or special assessments; whenever a local cost has to be picked up, it's got to be picked up by those that are within the community," he says.

Wacker is also the Hastings Municipal Airport's manager. He says they were told earlier this year that no federal grants would be headed their way, but they have other funds they're planning to use for safety projects.

But officials at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport in Grand Island say if their funds get cut, they would have to close their control tower. Director Mike Olson says planes can still land without a manned tower, and some of their late flights do now, but he says it's a safety feature they'd rather not operate without.

State leaders say these are all unnecessary consequences of a congressional stalemate.

"It's a $3.5 trillion budget and we all know you could cut 2.5 percent out of it, but across the board cuts aren't the way to do it," says Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman. "The president should take the lead just like we do as governors - call his legislative leaders in, decide the priorities for the country, and move forward with those reductions."

School districts say they know that Nebraska as a whole could lose as much as $6.5 million under sequestration, but how much each district would be hurt still isn't clear. They say that just like with roads projects, the full impact probably wouldn't be felt for at least another year.

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