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Local federally impacted schools will face more cuts

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Indian River, Carthage and Watertown school districts have been warned they are about to lose federal aid that equals as much as 20 percent of their budget.

As districts face rising employee costs and diminishing state aid and reserves, three schools also must worry about how federal cuts, which could last a decade and could end with the elimination of impact aid, will affect future school budgets.

Approximately 65 percent of Indian River Central School District’s enrollment is military-related. Because of this, it receives more federal impact aid than any other school in the area.

According to Superintendent James Kettrick, impact aid funds about a quarter of the district budget, which is nearly $80 million for next year.

“If we went on for 10 years and we lost aid every year, it would be very bad,” he said. “It would be impossible to maintain the programs we have presently.”

He said the district was warned by the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools about a potential loss of $1 million for the 2013-14 school year due to sequestration. The district already suffered a loss of $500,000 after the cuts took place after March 1.

Also affected would be federal title grants, which are issued through the state.

Congress is currently deciding if certain areas affected by sequestration should be protected. The federation is urging Congress that schools that receive federal impact aid, whether because they have military-related students or are located on a Native American reservation, be protected from sequestration cuts.

Mr. Kettrick said the Indian River Board of Education plans to attend a congressional session in September to address concerns about the loss to aid.

“We were cautioned that federal impact aid would just be eliminated at the end of this process,” he said.

The Budget Control Act has a formula that cuts a certain percentage from federal funding every year over the next 10 years, he said.

About 54 percent of students at Carthage Central School District are military related, with students living both on and off post. Superintendent Peter J. Turner said the $8 million the school usually receives is nearly 15 percent of next year’s budget.

Unlike at Indian River, he hasn’t seen a cut for his district yet.

“The thing with federal impact aid is that you don’t know when you’re going to get it,” he said.

Local districts usually receive several years of back payment from the federal government all at once.

As the district’s budget tightens, taking a cut in the future due to sequestration could lead to other cuts within the district.

“Any time you receive a cut in revenue, you have to cut something out,” he said. “Eight million dollars would be a lot of jobs that would be cut. We appreciate the aid and are fortunate to have it.”

Because the Watertown City School District does not enroll students who live on post, they receive much less impact aid than Carthage and Indian River — $350,000 to $400,000 per year for the 30 percent of students who are military-related.

Business manager Dale Morrow anticipates a 5 percent cut in impact aid next year.

“It’s a small percentage of our budget,” she said. “It’ll hurt us, but it’s not going to hurt that much.”

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