Agencies in Yuba-Sutter brace for federal cuts
A sampling of cuts to local agencies as a result of $85 billion in federal budget cuts that took effect Friday:
• Beale Air Force Base: About $5 million in pay reductions and $1.2 million in deferred projects.
• Head Start E Center: $450,000 to Head Start, $120,000 to early Head Start, $420,000 for migrant and seasonal Head Start.
• North Central Counties Consortium: Between $300,000 and $350,000 from the annual budget.
Federally funded agencies across Yuba-Sutter went past fearing and into planning Friday.
Though sequestration cuts aren't expected to go into effect for a few weeks, officials from Beale Air Force Base to Head Start said there was no doubt they would start feeling the impact.
"There are no good choices here," said Tom Wagner, chief executive officer at Head Start E Center, which operates programs in Northern California, including Yuba-Sutter.
Wagner said he's still not sure whether the cuts will have to go into effect in the next few months, toward the end of Head Start's program year, or if they will be pushed into the fall and the start of the next program year.
Either way, he said, the cuts total just under $1 million for the three Head Start programs operated locally, meaning they could result in closing a school, at least temporarily, and laying off employees.
"That means those cuts cannot really be absorbed by turning the lights off early," he said, adding he's frustrated because Head Start already only serves about half the children it could be, owing to previous budget cuts.
At Beale Air Force Base, there is uncertainty as the continuing resolution to fund the base and other government entities expires by month's end.
Base spokesman Capt. Brian Wagner said the mandated budget cuts mean 176 work hours will be cut by the end of the federal fiscal year in September, affecting 640 civilian employees at the base.
"We don't know the full effects until it actually happens," he said, adding the first furloughs will probably come in mid to late April. "We're talking about impacts to missions now."
Already, base commanders have canceled flyovers by Beale personnel, for example, and five base projects totaling $1.2 million to upgrade energy efficiency have been deferred, Wagner said.
Not all federal programs are affected by the 5 percent budget cuts that took effect Friday, split between domestic and military spending. Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits and most programs to aid the poor are exempt.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.
Levees, Beale may feel the pain
For two anticipated projects in Yuba-Sutter where federal funding is a component, the timing of Friday's mandated budget cuts could not be worse.
Reductions for the US Army Corps of Engineers' Sacramento office could translate into delays for approvals for work on the Feather River levee in Sutter County, set to start this year.
Laura Whitney, project manager for the Corps' Sutter Basin Feasibility Study, said in an email, "It's too early to tell — we just don't know at this point.
"We have a lot of things in the works right now like our Sutter Basin Feasibility Study draft report set for public review at the end of April, outlining our plan to reduce flood risk for the entire area," she said.
After years of planning for the project, officials for Sutter and Butte counties may have to wait until next year for the final reviews and checked boxes to proceed, a move not likely to make the project less expensive.
At Beale Air Force Base, there's a question of whether there will be money to rebuild a two-story civil engineering building ravaged by a fire in January.
Capt. Brian Wagner, a base spokesman, said he was unsure whether the federal government has been able to review a claim for repair money because he wasn't sure an investigative report on the fire is finished.
"Obviously, construction projects are being delayed," Wagner said. "It's a very fluid situation here right now."
Though the fire only resulted in one injury and no deaths, damage estimates came to about $10 million, and those who worked in the building are scattered across several other Beale offices in the interim, slightly reducing efficiency
Garamendi urges 'grand bargain'
As the effects of more than $85 billion of federal budget cuts begin to go into effect, pressure should start building on Congress to prevent any further slashes, said US Rep. John Garamendi.
"The reality is the cuts will harm the economy," said Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. "That will cause us to come together and get things done."
Garamendi, who represents Yuba-Sutter, said several members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have reached a point where they're willing to support a "grand bargain" solution along the lines of what House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama discussed in 2011 during debt-limit talks.
The grand bargain would resemble the suggestions of the 2011 Simpson-Bowles independent committee, which recommended, among other changes, eliminating mortgage-interest tax deductions, $1.6 billion of discretionary spending cuts through spending caps, and cost-savings reform for Medicare and Social Security.
Garamendi said there's bound to be disagreement on the specifics of such a plan.
"But there really is increasing sentiment to end this bimonthly chaos," he said.
What's not clear is how soon a new plan could emerge, though as constituents start feeling budget-cut impacts, they'll pressure their representatives, Garamendi said.
Ultimately, something to address cuts through the end of the fiscal year in September will get the first look, followed by a longer look at a more comprehensive plan involving both more revenues and reductions, he said.