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Effects of federal spending cuts on Fort Wayne area either minimal or unknown

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, March 01, 2013 07:00 am
The cuts in federal spending mandated by the sequestration deal that goes into effect today won't make Fort Wayne grind to a halt – not even close – but some recipients of federal spending will feel the pinch.Cuts are likely to be most noticed at the Indiana Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing at Baer Field. Much about the sequester cuts is uncertain, but officials at the Air Guard expect about 200 civilian technicians to be subject to one-day-a-week furloughs later this year, according to 122nd spokesman Master Sgt. Darrin Hubble.

He said the 122nd is concerned that cutting back technicians' hours will reduce training time.

“Our flight hours will definitely feel the impact,” Hubble said Thursday. “But we'll prioritize in a way that allows us to maintain our readiness.”

Hubble said his understanding is that employees subject to furlough are entitled to 30 days' notice, so the cuts in staff hours may not take effect until the end of March.

“We're waiting and watching just like the rest of the community,” he said.

The financial impact at Fort Wayne Community Schools will be considerable – hundreds of thousands of dollars a week – but spokeswoman Krista Stockman said the district anticipates no layoffs. Those aren't even an option in the near future.

“It is highly unlikely we would make staffing changes at this point in the school year,” Stockman wrote in an email. “Logistically and contractually, it would be nearly impossible to lay off staff right now. For special education, we are required to provide necessary services even if we don't have enough federal funding. What that means is any cuts will really have an effect on the General Fund and could lead to budget cuts as we prepare for the 2013-14 school year.”

The largest stream of federal funding delivered to FWCS is an estimated $277,980 for Title I programs, she said. Title I funding is directed to districts with large percentages of children from low-income households. The district gets an estimated $154,380 per week for special education.

That money pays for 210 teachers and 78 classroom assistants, she said.

Medicare payments to health-care providers are scheduled to be cut by 2 percent under the sequestration deal. Because about 45 percent of the Lutheran Health Network's revenue comes from Medicare, the Medicare cut will amount to about a 1 percent cut in the network's revenue, Lutheran Health Network CEO Joe Dorko said Thursday.

For now, Dorko expects the health network to absorb the cut instead of cutting employees, for example.

“There's so much unknown and so much changing; this is no time for knee-jerk reactions,” he said. Instead, Dorko said the health network would continue focusing on its main goals – improving patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.

Executives at Parkview Health declined to comment on the impact of the Medicare payment cuts.

Not everybody is sweating the cuts.

The federal government may use plenty of pickups, but General Motors' Fort Wayne assembly plant doesn't foresee any reduction in production as it introduces the next generation of pickups this year, according to spokesman Stephanie Jentgen.

Though there's been some speculation about cuts in food inspection causing problems in the nation's food distribution, Kroger executives don't see problems ahead.

“I haven't heard a single comment about sequestration impact on Kroger,” said spokesman John Elliott. “I really don't think it will, judging by the miniscule percentage of the actual federal budget we're talking about.”


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