Kate Vinton

The Desert Dispatch

BARSTOW • Silver Valley Unified School District could lose a projected $1 million in aid from the federal government should automatic spending cuts occur in January — just one example of how sequestration could impact the Barstow area.

Some 61 percent of the district’s students come from military families living on Fort Irwin and the Marine Corps Logistics Base who are exempt from taxes, according to Marc Jackson, superintendent of SVUSD.

“The United States government is reimbursing you to educate those children,” Jackson explained. “It’s their federal commitment since 1950 to reimburse school districts for impact aid.”

If sequestration occurs next year, SVUSD could lose around $1 million of the $8 million to $9 million dollars it receives in impact aid through Title 8 of the Elementary Secondary School Act.

“We’re investigating and we’re trying to think about how this will affect us,” Jackson said. “I’m really bothered by this.”

Sequestration is a term for automatic spending cuts to every government program mandated by the Budget Control Act. If Congress and the White House cannot agree on a plan to save $1.2 trillion by the end of the year, these cuts will take effect on Jan. 2.

Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon represents the Barstow area and is chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He is working to raise awareness about the impact of sequestration on both the Armed Forces and communities like Barstow with military connections.

In the first phase of Budget Control Act, the Armed Forces has experienced $487 billion in direct cuts. This amount could be doubled under sequestration, resulting in an 18 percent reduction in the Department of Defense budget, according to the Armed Services Committee website.

“There are a lot of people in the public who don’t understand what a huge impact this is going to have,” explains Claude Chasin, spokesperson for the Armed Service Committee.

According to Chasin, no progress can be made on the issue until after the election in November because Congress is in recess, and many are waiting anxiously.

“McKeon is not holding his breath. He wants people to understand what this will do for communities that have supported the military for so long,” Chasin says. “The local economy can be dependent on troops participating in the local community.”

While the operational impact of these cuts to Barstow’s military bases is not yet known, the economic impact on Barstow can be partially estimated by examining defense contracts in the area, according to Chasin.

According to the Center for Security Policy’s Impact Reports, Barstow has 98 defense contracts worth approximately $18.9 million. With sequestration, the city could lose a projected $3.4 million in cuts from the contracts alone.

These figures only show part of the potential impact of sequestration. For Silver Valley school district, for example, the educational impact is upsetting as the district will have to make cuts, such as potentially reducing teacher training.

“It’s disheartening to get caught in the middle of all these political games and quagmires,” Jackson said.

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