BLOOMINGTON — Uncertainty for local organizations may be worse than any cuts from the looming “sequester” budget cuts eyed by Washington lawmakers.
Among cuts in Illinois: $33.4 million for education, $27.4 million for teachers who help students with disabilities, $83.5 million in military salaries, and smaller cuts to public health and law enforcement programs.
Those include downstate airports, Peace Meal home-delivered food and Showbus programs.
Central Illinois Regional Airport and Decatur Airport are on the list for tower closures if the full cuts proceed. Paul Harmon, Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority Chairman, said the airport still can take flights if CIRA’s tower closes, but will have to cancel more of them in inclement weather.
“Every time they do one of these things, it either creates costs or leads to inconvenience for the traveling public,” Harmon said, explaining delays in federal funding last year resulted in $200,000 in cost overruns for a fence.
Michael O’Donnell, executive director of East Central Area Agency on Aging, said groups like his are faced with making a year’s worth of cuts in half the time.
“A decision to cut funding is always difficult, but deferring it to a later date makes the administration of those cuts more difficult,” O’Donnell said.
One beneficiary of those funds is the Peace Meal program, which delivers meals to elderly and disabled people in counties throughout Central Illinois. Assistant Director Barb Seagren said the organization receives as much as a third of its funding from state and federal money.
Peace Meal helps elderly people to remain in their own homes.
“That’s the difference programs like ours make,” Seagren said. “It will impact people who have a difficult time putting a meal together, and when you’re able to put a meal together, I don’t think it’s very easy being able to comprehend not being able to do that.”
O’Donnell’s organization will shift funding to try to keep home deliveries at the same level, but likely at the expense of congregate meal sites that serve 6,500 seniors. Overall, sequester cuts could total $355,420 for his agency, which also would be passed along to Show Bus. The Chenoa-based rural transportation group could lose 2 percent of its funding.
Andrew Wise, business and operations manager for Olympia School District in Stanford, said his district receives about 10 percent of its funding from federal sources. Among other things, federal funding provides reading teachers and aides, and workshops and other training for teachers, Wise said.
“Ultimately for us, it’s the dollars,” Wise said. “We’ve lost almost $1 million in state and federal funding just over the past two years. Out of a $20 million budget, losing a million hurts.”