Any failure by Congress to halt $85 billion in spending cuts known as “sequestration” could have a major impact on local institutions, including the Galloway Township School District and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.
According to Galloway School District Business Administrator Tim Kelley, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding for the school district could both take a hit should the cuts take effect on Friday, March 1, as scheduled.
In the case of NCLB, the programs could take a hit. If IDEA funding gets cut, those programs must continue to be maintained, Kelley said.
“Some of the major programs funded by NCLB include our summer learning program, which offers students an opportunity to practice skills during the summer months when they are not in the classroom on a daily basis,” Kelley said via email on Monday, Feb. 25.
He also noted supplemental programs during the year could be impacted, including before and after school tutoring targeted at students having difficulty reading at an age-appropriate level.
“IDEA funds are received and utilized to fund a large amount of tuition for students with special needs who require programs the district does not offer,” Kelley said. “Since these are costs that still must be funded in the event of sequestration, we would have to look at the general budget for reductions. Additionally, IDEA funds an extended school year program for students who have such a requirement in their IEP. Again, this program still must be funded in the event of sequestration.”
The school district is in the process of preparing its 2013-14 budget. The initial budget is due to the county on March 7, and Gov. Chris Christie gives his State of the Budget Address this afternoon, Feb. 26. On Thursday, the district will receive news concerning its state aid numbers.
The district recognizes this number will impact its budget, and also has a contingency plan in place for sequestration.
“While we do not have a specific amount of what a reduction would be, we are taking the real potential for sequestration into account as we build the 2013-14 budget,” Kelley said. “Should sequestration have a greater impact than predicted, additional cuts could be necessary.”
In December, the Galloway Township Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution supporting an amendment to help the country avoid “falling off the fiscal cliff.” While a compromise was reached, it was a temporary solution and further action must be taken by Friday.
AtlantiCare has been preparing for possible sequestration as well, spokesperson Jennifer Tornetta stated on Monday.
"We are always evolving our business model as we continue to meet the changes healthcare needs in an increasingly challenging reimbursement environment," Tornetta said. "We knew changes would be coming and we have been preparing for that."
Aiding AtlantiCare's preparations has been the voluntary retirements of about 100 people in 2012. AtlantiCare has taken some proactive steps, and Tornetta stated these steps would make the hospital work more efficiently, and that the care of their patients wouldn't suffer.
"AtlantiCare has worked diligently over many years to provide care more efficiently and effectively, including developing new models of care, such as formation of our own accountable care organization," Tornetta said." ... Through our rolling strategic planning process and cost cutting and efficiency enhancing initiatives, we realized about $30 million in savings in 2012."
According to Tornetta, the impact of sequestration on the hospital would be $3.5 million a year.