Federal cutbacks felt in Hays County

Federal budget shortfalls and proposed cuts could have far-reaching effects for a number of San Marcos–area organizations.

Gary Job Corps, the federal education and career training program in San Marcos, cut about 350 students during a spring admissions freeze that ended April 21, said Issa Arnita, a spokesman for Management Training Corp.

The company operates the center on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor, which implemented the 12-week freeze at its 125 Job Corps centers in January as it grappled with a $61.5 million spending gap.

"Because of their [federal] budget shortfall, they're making us cut back," said Arnita, Management Training Corp. spokesman.

Heading into the next budget year, other institutions such as Hays CISD and San Marcos CISD are bracing for mandatory cuts known as sequestration. Early-childhood education, airport safety and academic research are among the areas that could also be affected by sequestration, which began March 1 and was enacted by the Budget Control Act of 2011 in an effort to force federal lawmakers to reduce the annual budget.

Reductions at Gary

Following the admissions freeze, enrollment at Gary Job Corps fell to 775 students from a maximum enrollment of 1,600. The 48-year-old education and career training program has begun to accept new students again, but the Labor Department has instructed Gary Job Corps to reduce its future enrollment targets by 21 percent.

"Gary is just not going to be able to serve that many students, unfortunately. That's obviously a concern of ours," Arnita said.

President Lyndon B. Johnson initiated the Job Corps in 1964 as a program to train young people for careers and independent living. He chose the San Marcos location in 1965. The Job Corps serves students between the ages of 16–24, training them to be machinists, computer technicians, medical assistants and for other careers.

The Labor Department said it remains committed to Johnson's mission.

"The department strongly supports Job Corps, which provides life-changing opportunities for thousands of deserving young people each year," acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris said in a prepared statement. "The suspension of enrollment has been difficult for students and families, and the department is committed to ensuring that this important program is administered efficiently by the [Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration] and in the best interest of students and families."

Federal sequestration could also affect the program when its next budget year starts July 1, but Arnita said he could not comment on its impact on Gary Job Corps. The Job Corps will still be running as usual, just not with as many students, he said.

Effects elsewhere in San Marcos

Suad Hooper, the program director for Community Action Inc. of Central Texas, which provides Head Start education for 539 children in Hays and Caldwell counties, said she will soon know how sequestration could affect the program.

"Some things tend to move pretty quickly," Hooper said. "This might affect some of our Head Start parents."

Head Start provides education, health and nutrition for children from low-income families and is a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Government grants account for more than 90 percent of Community Action's budget, and Hooper said the nonprofit group is looking at a 5 percent cut.

"There is a possibility that we might let go of some of our staff this summer but then rehire them in the fall," Hooper said.

Texas State University research

Billy Covington, associate vice president for research and federal relations at Texas State University, said the effects of sequestration are not yet fully understood.

"In terms of impact on our research funding from the federal government, it appears the major impact will be on new awards, not on awards already in progress," Covington said. "In the future, it will be difficult to determine if a proposal is not funded due to sequestration or to other technical reasons."

Covington said there had been no decreases in the university's research grant funding as of late April.

School districts

Hays and San Marcos CISDs are both budgeting for an approximate 5 percent decrease in federal funding.

Hays CISD interim Superintendent Carter Scherff said the school receives four different types of federal funding: Title 1, 2 and 3 and special-education funding.

The funding provides services for low socioeconomic status students, training and recruiting of staff, and special education.

"In our general funds, we have a minimum federal funding that we receive, so we will not be impacted there on our general fund," Scherff said. "But those special revenue funds will receive a reduction of about 5 percent."

Scherff said he doesn't believe the district will have to lay off employees.

"There may be some employees that are currently within those special programs that end up working in our general education programs," he said.

Pam Guettner, director of curriculum and instruction for San Marcos CISD, said the district is estimating it will receive about $1.8 million in Title 1 funding during the 2013–14 budget year, a drop from the current $2.4 million.

Guettner said she expects the district to reduce teacher training and additional resources in response to sequestration rather than laying off employees.

On April 4, the governing board of the Texas Department of Transportation approved 90-day emergency funding to fill the gap when Federal Aviation Administration funding is cut.

"The new deadline in revenue to stop the funding date is June 15," Alexander said. "At which point, TxDOT said, 'OK, for obvious reasons, we're not going to do funding for right now. We have to wait and see what happens in Washington before we can make a decision and then go from there.'"

The airport receives about $600,000 a year in federal funds, Alexander said.

"It's not finalized now, but it is what we are working on with obviously the hope ... that this funding continues, and it becomes a non-issue," Alexander said. "We are continually measuring all of the options, and our hope is that this gets solved on a federal level and continues on as it has been."


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