Central Bucks schools could lose as much as $450,000 in federal funding if Congress doesn't reach a budget compromise.
That's the threat looming over schools here and across Pennsylvania and the country, as the days slip by before Friday's sequestration deadline.
Sequestration refers to $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts due to go into effect over the next 10 years. About $85 billion of those cuts would go into effect Friday unless Congress reaches a budget agreement.
In the meantime, school finance officials like Dave Matyas are playing the wait-and-see game.
"It’s like a black box. You know there will be budget cuts coming out of it but you don’t know what specific cuts there might be, and you don’t know how that’s going to impact Central Bucks," Matyas told Patch on Tuesday. He is Central Bucks' finance director.
Without action from Congress, sequestration would go into effect automatically on March 1, reducing spending by the state in a number of areas, including education, the environment, health, military and law enforcement. The cuts would be across the board, with no departmental input into how they would be implemented.
Pennsylvania could lose nearly $47.8 million in funding for regular and special education if Congress fails to halt the sequestration, according to figures released by the White House.
For Central Bucks, it could mean as much as a 5 or 10 percent reduction in federal money coming into the district.
Central Bucks gets about $4.5 million in federal funding now, Matyas said. That accounts for only about 1.5 percent of the district's $288 million budget.
Still, a 10 percent cut would mean a loss of about $450,000, real dollars that would no longer be available. And that would hurt, Matyas said.
"The thing we spend the most money on is reading, to try to get students who are reading below grade level up to grade level," he said. "It’s an important program, and federal money helps pay for material and staff time for that.
"So the question then becomes, are we going to cut back on those federal programs or move money around to try to pay for them? So it’s worrisome."
Central Bucks Superintendent Dr. Rodney Green said Tuesday night that the district will wait and see what happens in the next few days before it begins taking the possibility too seriously.
"You would hope that smart people could sit down and figure this out," Green said.
If the cuts do go into effect, Matyas said they wouldn't hit Central Bucks until the 2013 - 2014 school year.