STANFORD — Indiscriminate federal budget cuts, collectively known as the federal "sequester," are taking their own toll on next year's Lincoln County School District budget.
Superintendent Karen Hatter said reductions in federal funding for her district are going to cause personnel cuts on top of the half-million in local cuts she is already recommending to keep the general fund in balance.
The federal cuts could be as severe as 15 percent, but will hopefully wind up around 10 percent or less overall, Hatter said.
The cuts would affect all areas of federal funding, including three areas of funding — Title I, special education and HeadStart — that are used largely to pay teachers' salaries, Hatter said.
Hatter has estimated those three funding areas will see 5- to 9-percent cuts.
"The cuts that will result will be above and beyond the cuts made to the general fund," Hatter wrote in a memo to board of education members. "In order to plan for these budget cuts without knowing the exact numbers at this time, all non-tenured employees will be issued non-renewal notices this year."
Chief Deputy of Quality Instruction Angela Cain said she has begun working on the federal portion of the district's budget for next year but can't yet "predict the impact" the cuts will have on the number of teacher positions that will ultimately be funded.
It's possible that by holding over up to 15 percent of their Title I funding from this school year, schools can hold off some cuts for one year, District Finance Officer Marsha Abel and Hatter said.
"We think that will ease it for one more year, but it won't totally eliminate (cuts)," Hatter said.
Cain said there's a bigger issue haunting future years' budgets — the sequester isn't a one-time deal.
"If it's not stopped somehow, it's going to continue," she said. "Another 9 percent next year and then another 9 percent the next year. That's the part that's really going to impact."
Hatter said the cuts her district is facing are the toughest challenge she's faced as superintendent.
"We've had cuts, but I don't know — this feels tougher," she said. "It's because you know you're going to have to look at it again next year."
Abel said one way the school district can mitigate the loss of federal funds is to increase its property tax rate.
Tax districts like the school system can increase their revenues from property taxes by 4 percent every year as long as a public forum on the increase is held.
Next year won't be the first year federal funding has come up shorter. Documentation from the board office shows the federal contribution to the school budget has dropped dramatically over the past four years, falling from $10.4 million in fiscal year 2009-10 to an estimated $5.4 million in fiscal year 2013-14.
The sequester was designed by the U.S. Congress in 2011, when it passed the Budget Control Act. The act slashes spending in almost every area of the government by about $85 billion every fiscal year from now until 2021.
The wholesale cuts to defense and non-defense spending implemented by the act were supposed to be so distasteful to all political sides that it would force Democrats and Republicans to work together and find a better solution.
But after Congress delayed implementation of the cuts by two months, the sequester took effect March 1.