OGDEN — The sequester’s automatic budget cuts will have some major impacts on public schools tied to the military, but Top of Utah districts will be relatively unharmed.
All over the nation, school districts with military ties are bracing for increased class sizes and delayed building repairs. Some of the schools have even axed sports teams and eliminated teaching positions, and the schools still may have to tap into savings just to make it through the year.
The schools’ losses will come from cuts to a federal program known as “Impact Aid.”
The aid is designed to assist school districts that have lost property tax revenue because of the presence of tax-exempt federal property or that have experienced increased expenditures resulting from the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands.
Because of their proximity to Hill Air Force Base, Weber and Davis school districts receive yearly funding from the program. Both districts will face cuts to their Impact Aid fund, but they don’t expect the cuts to be dramatic.
Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said his district typically receives about $700,000 to $800,000 from Impact Aid each year. He said it appears the district could lose anywhere from 5 to 7 percent of that. Assuming the largest cut, 7 percent of $800,000 would be $56,000.
“That’s not a lot when you think of a budget that’s the size of ours, but it does make a difference,” Williams said. “That money is what we call ‘unencumbered funds,’ and we can use that money for any need we may have, whether it’s a teacher, building needs, textbooks or bus upgrades.”
Weber School District spokesman Nate Taggart said his district has not yet received word on how much its funds will be cut, but officials there aren’t expecting anything dramatic, either.
“We haven’t received word from the Feds yet,” Taggart said. “But our total budget (for Impact Aid) for a year is only $200,000. So whatever the cuts are, they will be a percentage of that. We don’t expect to get hit as hard as some other areas.”
About 1,400 school districts serving roughly 11 million children nationwide — including nearly 376,500 students from military families — benefit from the aid, said Jocelyn Bissonnette, director of government affairs for the Washington-based National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.
Bissonnette said slightly more than 5 percent of funding would disappear from nearly all U.S. Department of Education programs under the sequester’s automatic cuts.
But while most of the reductions wouldn’t take effect until fall, Impact Aid could be immediately cut, with many districts failing to receive a scheduled payment in March.
In all, the U.S. Department of Education estimates districts receiving Impact Aid could see $60 million evaporate this school year.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.