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Examining the local impact of sequestration cuts

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Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013 5:26 pm | Updated: 9:05 pm, Tue Apr 2, 2013.

SARASOTA - Those who rely on federal funding here on the Suncoast are bracing for the cuts.

While they won't happen overnight, the prospect of losing the money has some in education and the air travel industry on edge.

No one is off the job just yet, but school board officials are preparing for whatever is in the pipeline.

Some teachers at Emma Booker Elementary are among the many in the state whose salaries is partially funded by federal programs that are on the chopping block because of the sequestration.

"In a title one reduction there will be less teachers in those schools, which basically help us reduce class size," says Al Weidner.

Weidner is the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Sarasota Schools, and says Title One schools will see the biggest reductions.

Title One is designation assigned to schools where 75% or more of the students are from homes with incomes close to the poverty level. "We'll probably have to drop off one or two of the Title One schools to make the budget balance. Our students that have the greatest need, that’s where the cuts will be made,” said Weidner.

In addition to teachers and aid, schools will see less funding for programs that help students who are struggling keep up and those with disabilities. But public schools aren't the only ones preparing for the funding cuts.

"We're on the list of possible closures and we're monitoring it closely," says James Parish of the Punta Gorda Airport.

Parish says the 8 employees who work at their tower will lose their jobs if the cuts continue. "We've been told that it would take 30 days for the contract with the tower operators to shut them down, so if they receive notification today it would be the first week in April they will close," added Parish.

In addition to the eight 8 jobs, Parish says if the tower is shut down it would mean fewer flights in and out of the airport. "It would affect flight. It would affect the passengers coming in and out of the airports, but we operated before without tower and we would continue to operate again without a tower, but obviously we spent 4 million dollars of our money and the states money to build the tower, so we like to see it continue operating," said Parish.

Sarasota School Board officials are also staying positive. They say they have put some money aside for situations like this that will lessen the blow, but it won’t completely cover the loss of funding.  The school board says that as much as $700,000 could be cut from the budget.

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