The federal budget standoff will have serious implications locally as agencies ranging from the city of Corvallis to Oregon State University face cuts in housing and transit programs, school lunches and research.
It begins to come to a head Friday, a deadline set late last year when the country faced a “fiscal cliff” and President Barack Obama and congressional leaders forged a budget deal that would postpone automatic spending cuts for two months.
But the partial resolution passed on Jan. 1 expires Friday, and $85 billion in across-the-board spending “sequestration” cuts are set to kick in, with no agreement in sight.
“Let’s hope they come to their senses in Washington and figure this thing out,” said state Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis. “If sequester happens, we’ll have a tough road ahead of us. We don’t have additional funds to backfill those losses ... My hope is that Congress will see that this is unworkable ... We need long-term solutions.”
Gelser spoke Tuesday at a community forum on federal budget issues organized by community activist Leah Bolger. Also appearing were Benton County Commissioner Annabelle Jaramillo, Ward 8 Corvallis Councilor Biff Traber and Corvallis School Board Vice Chairman Tom Sauret.
Jaramillo noted that much of the federal money local agencies receive trickles down or passes through state government first.
“Most county functions are mandated by the state and the feds,” said Jaramillo, who is in her fourth term as commissioner.
Officials said that agencies would be unlikely to feel the effects of the cuts immediately and that impacts likely will become more severe over time.
“We’ll begin to notice (sequestration) soon,” said Jaramillo. “We’re still trying to cope with this. You just try to pick the crisis to go after first.”
Here is a look at the impact of the sequester cuts agency by agency:
City of Corvallis
Total federal assistance for 2012 was $3.65 million, according to Traber. Approximately two-thirds of the money was for transit and housing services, although the depth of federal largesse extended to $36,000 from the Department of the Interior for the Arts Center Plaza.
Finance Director Nancy Brewer said federal funds “outside of housing and transit are more focused grants for specific purposes. We would expect these types of grants to end, though we believe that any grants already authorized would continue.”
Traber noted that just 5 percent of city expenditures depend upon federal money.
Oregon State University
The biggest impact on the university is research, with $9.5 million in programs at risk, according to Kate Sinner, director of federal relations. Lesser impacts for OSU, said Sinner, are $469,000 in land-grant capacity funds and $100,000 for student aid.
Approximately 27 percent — or $50 million of the county’s $183 million biennial budget — consists of state and federal grants, said Jaramillo. She noted that a renter’s assistance program run by the Community Services Consortium (which also includes Linn and Lincoln counties), already has been suspended.
Jaramillo said the county lost the $5 million that came from a program that once paid counties to offset losses in timber revenue.
Corvallis School District
Eight percent of district funding comes from federal sources, said Sauret. The figure has been as high as 12 percent in recent years.
“Most of the money helps those most in need and most at risk,” he said.
In the most recent budget cycle, the district received $2.5 million from the Department of Education, mainly for assistance for low-income and disabled students. Another $1.4 million came from the Department of Agriculture for food and nutrition programs.
Contact reporter James Day at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day