Sequester: A big word for budget cuts that'll affect your schools

We're less than two days away from the sequester taking effect.

The automatic, across-the-board cuts will amount to $85 billion. If Congress doesn't act by Friday, the budgets of most federal government programs and agencies will shrink. That includes budgets for public schools.

"We're trying to do more with less just like everybody else is," Palmyra Superintendent Eric Churchwell said.

Churchwell says his funding for the next school year is about to take a plunge. It's caused him to reevaluate his current budget.

"You can't spend money you don't have," Churchwell said.

The Palmyra School District receives between 6 and 7 percent of its annual budget from the federal government. If a sequester takes place, Churchwell says he could lose anywhere from 8 to 9 percent of those funds.

"What that means for us, is it's a decrease of approximately $25,000 to $30,000. We'll have to decide how we can cut that amount of money or we'll have to come up with local dollars to keep our programs in place," Churchwell said.

The main program that would see an effect from a sequester is the district's Title 1 reading and math program at the elementary school. But Churchwell says he's confident the school will not make cuts there.

"We spend as much local dollars on that program as we do federal dollars," Churchwell said.

When Churchwell got word of a potential sequester a few months ago, he began to plan in advance.

"What I have done in this year's budget, I reduced our revenue and federal revenue by 6 percent," Churchwell said.

Those cuts are already in effect, so if the sequester happens, Churchwell will only need to cut back maybe 2 percent in the next school year.

"I won't see the 8 percent decrease until next year. So, we may actually have a little bit of a surplus this year, because I planned ahead," Churchwell said. "We're kind of bare bones and still being able to provide a quality education for the kids."

Palmyra is just one of many schools in the Tri-State area that would take a hit from these budget cuts.

Other districts like Quincy and Hannibal plan to wait for the final numbers before they cut their budget. Most districts would see cuts to their Head Start and Title 1 programs if they don't find local money to fund it.