ARIZONA DAILY STAR SPECIAL REPORT

Across Southern Arizona, sequestration could affect jobs, services - and lives

2013-02-24T00:00:00Z 2013-02-25T11:45:05Z Across Southern Arizona, sequestration could affect jobs, services - and livesArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Roads

Road projects are mostly safe from sequestration. But there will be some impact, especially if the cuts continue long-term.

Taxes you pay at the gas pump go to the Federal Highway Trust Fund, then come back to the Arizona Department of Transportation, which turns them over to the Pima Association of Governments to dole out for projects.

The trust fund is protected, but the federal general fund has supplemented it in recent years as gas tax revenue has slipped. That is subject to cuts, said John Liosatos, transportation planning director at the Pima Association of Governments.

Statewide, the Arizona Department of Transportation anticipates cuts of $6.8 million this fiscal year and $13.1 million next fiscal year due to sequestration, said ADOT spokeswoman Laura Douglas. That will affect Tucson-area projects, although likely not those already under way, Douglas said.

Liosatos said there could be a secondary impact if Arizona shifts more gas tax money away from road projects to ease other shortages, as has happened in the past.

Becky Pallack

Pima County

The county has few discretionary federal grants, and so anticipates little direct impact from sequestration.

But Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said he fears a domino impact, where federal furloughs and contract reductions filter down to local aerospace and defense employers. Resulting job cuts would force the county to rapidly ramp up its One Stop job bank and training system to help suddenly jobless workers, Huckelberry said.

Becky Pallack

Schools

Sequestration cuts could reduce or eliminate programs that help disadvantaged students and special-needs students.

Nationwide, a cut of up to $1.3 billion in education spending is possible. It's unclear how that would break down on a school-district level.

Because it comes so late in the school year, most districts won't feel the impact until next school year, said Ricky Hernández, chief financial officer for the Pima County schools superintendent. The exception will be schools on Indian reservations or other federal property, such as those operated by the Department of Defense. They'll face immediate cuts.

Most affected will be schools that get Title I funds - special funding for teachers, drop-out prevention and special instruction in economically disadvantaged areas. Tucson, Sunnyside and Flowing Wells districts all rely on Title I.

Teacher training and development programs also would take a hit, hindering the state's implementation of the new, more rigorous Common Core standards, Hernández said. Special education programs for the physically and mentally disabled also could be cut.

Jamar Younger

National parks

Saguaro National Park visitors could see reduced hours and downsized youth programs. Those impacts would be felt by Tucsonans as well as tourists.

"Saguaro is considered almost an urban park, so the impacts will be greater here on the local population," said Bob Newtson, executive director of the Friends of Saguaro National Park.

The Coronado National Forest of Southern Arizona would face problems as well. The Department of Agriculture, which oversees forests, said Forest Service wildland fire management would face a hit of $134 million.

The Forest Service also would close up to 670 public recreation sites, but it was unknown if Southern Arizona sites such as Sabino Canyon and Madera Canyon might face closures.

Doug Kreutz

SOCIAL SERVICES

Tens of millions of federal tax dollars provide aid for Tucson's homeless and working poor, frail elderly, jobless workers in need of training, domestic violence victims and others.

Nerves are fraying at local agencies that serve them.

"It's terribly frustrating for our staff, not knowing what's going to happen to the clients we serve," said Andrea Ibanez, director of housing and community development for Tucson.

This year, her department has an $83 million budget - 92 percent from federal coffers. Much of that goes toward the city's public housing programs or to local agencies such as Primavera Foundation, which runs homeless services and poverty-reduction efforts.

Pima County receives $16 million or so in federal funds for services such as short-term emergency assistance crisis and job training.

Another $6 million or so in federal cash pays for services that allow elderly, low-income locals to stay in their homes rather than in nursing homes or care facilities.

Services include meal delivery for shut-ins, group meals at local seniors centers, caregiver support and help with daily tasks.

The programs are administered by the Pima Council on Aging, whose chief operating officer, Debra Adams, calls the potential impact of sequestration "catastrophic." If cuts come, the first thing the council will likely be forced to do is stop taking new clients, Adams said.

Health-care facilities also stand to be affected by a 2 percent cut in payments to Medicare providers.

Peggy Hutchinson, CEO of Primavera Foundation, said she's concerned, but not panicked, about the federal situation. The agency can run on existing funds for the short term, she said.

"In the long term, I have confidence this will be sorted out," she said, "because it will be devastating for us as a nation if it isn't."

The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, which has seen demand more than double during the economic downturn, now is bracing for 20,000 or more new mouths to feed as locals lose their jobs or are forced onto furloughs.

The food bank can't afford to feed them all, said Bill Carnegie, its president and CEO. He said donations to the agency are down slightly over last year. "We are almost to the point where we're maxed out in terms of our ability to feed this community," he said.

Public housing

Up to 400 families - as many as 1,800 people - who receive rent subsidy vouchers under the city's Housing Choice Program could lose their homes if the cuts take effect.

The program provides subsidies to low-income residents who rent private homes or apartments. The program provides subsidies for about 5,200 units, and is funded with $38 million in federal money disbursed over the course of the year.

If a deal isn't struck, benefits would be cut for 250 to 400 units, said Assistant City Manager Albert Elias. Those who lose their subsidy will likely lose their homes.

The city has been warning people the subsidy could be ending soon so they won't be caught unprepared, he said.

Public housing in city-owned complexes and Community Development Block Grant funds would take lesser hits. Money is mostly doled out in a lump sum so the city already has the money. The city will offset lost federal funds by scaling back services such as maintenance and repairs until funding is restored.

Darren DaRonco

University of Arizona

The UA expects to take a $15 million hit this year if Congress doesn't act, much of it in federal grants that support research.

"This will directly impact faculty, staff scientists, graduate students, undergraduates, their families and the Arizona economy dependent on their local spending," J.C. Mutchler, executive director of the UA President's Office, said at a news conference Friday.

Long-term research projects would be disrupted, making it tough for the school to attract top talent, he said. The UA is Southern Arizona's largest employer, with more than 9,600 full-time personnel and about 5,500 part-timers. The school's budget is more than $1.9 billion, including revenue from related medical facilities.

Head Start

Head Start services are in jeopardy for more than 2,700 Southeastern Arizona children as the agency that administers the program braces for a cut of up to $2.1 million.

The federal program promotes school readiness of children - birth to age 5 - from low-income families. Cuts of 5 to 9 percent would likely mean a reduction in the number of children served or the days it operates. If the choice is to reduce the number of participants, as many as 254 kids could be forced out.

"No matter how we address the reduction, the community will be hurt by it because children's ability to succeed in school will be compromised," said Maggie Molloy, executive director of Child-Parent Centers, which administers 40 Head Start programs in Pima, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee and Santa Cruz counties.

border security

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees Border Patrol agents and officers at the ports of entry, could lose $754 million this fiscal year if the forced federal budget cuts go through.

Local Border Patrol agents will face furloughs of up to 14 days and essentially will see an end to overtime, cutting their salaries by about 35 percent, said Art Del Cueto, president of the local Border Patrol union.

Del Cueto said cutting overtime, which is a significant chunk of an agent's salary, affects the entire mission. Starting salary for a Border Patrol agent is $36,000 to $46,000. "What are you supposed to do toward the end of a shift if you have a group that you have to go after. What do you do?" he said.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations that in fiscal 2013, the department would be expected to absorb about $4 billion of $85 billion in sequestration cuts to the federal government.

Sequestration could "increase wait times at airports, affect security between land ports of entry, limit CBP's ability to collect revenue owed to the federal government, and slow screening and entry programs for those traveling into the United States," she said.

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., said he doesn't want to see a reduction of front-line agents. "These are people making sure every day they are protecting the border," he said.

Cuts in Homeland Security funding will also affect local law enforcement departments, Tucson police Assistant Chief Brett Klein said Friday.

The department participates in Operation Stonegarden, a federal program to help police departments with border-security costs. In fiscal 2012, Arizona got $9.5 million, more than $7 million of which went to the Tucson Sector.

DEFENSE

Military installations across Southern Arizona are bracing for sequestration cuts - including potential mass furloughs of civilian employees.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca each employ more than 3,000 civil-service workers who would be subject to furloughs.

Most of the Pentagon's 800,000 civilian employees would lose one day per workweek, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 days, probably starting in April.

The furloughs would affect about 180,000 civilian Air Force employees overall, according to an Air Force sequestration plan.

"I don't know about you, but I can't do (with) 20 percent less pay," said Matt Sherman, vice president of American Federation of Government Employees local 2924, which represents federal employees at D-M.

Davis-Monthan

Should sequestration occur, the Air Force plans to cut maintenance to keep systems ready by 18 percent. Aircraft fleets included in the maintenance cuts would include planes at D-M: A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air-support planes and C-130 multipurpose cargo planes.

Noncombat flying hours to maintain combat readiness also would be cut by 18 percent, the Air Force says.

Nonessential flying - for air shows and flyovers, for example - already are being curtailed. Officials have canceled this year's air show at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, but D-M's next biennial air show is still tentatively scheduled for April 2014, Davis-Monthan spokesman Capt. Jonathan Simmons said.

Cuts in active-duty and reserve military personnel also are possible. D-M is Southern Arizona's fourth-largest employer with 8,566 full-time-equivalent employees including military and civilian personnel. In 2011, the base pumped about $1.1 billion into the local economy, an Air Force economic-impact report says.

Air National Guard

The Arizona Air National Guard at Tucson International Airport could face furloughs of civilian employees, as well as cuts to training and equipment maintenance.

Fort Huachuca

Tanja Linton, media relations officer for Fort Huachuca, said she expects the base's 3,300 civil-service employees - herself included - will get notices of possible furloughs in the coming days.

"We're all keeping our fingers crossed that it won't come to that, but that decision isn't made locally," said Linton, who has worked at Fort Huachuca for about 14 years during a 30-year civil-service career.

The U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca together are Southern Arizona's seventh-largest employer, reporting 6,198 full-time-equivalent military members and civilian workers at the start of 2012, the Star 200 survey of major employers shows. The base is a key training site for intelligence soldiers and unmanned-aircraft operators.

Sequestration cuts to individual soldier training will leave the Army short 513 aviators and about 4,000 "critical military intelligence"-trained soldiers, the Army said in a recent memo.

The cuts could also hit the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site at the Silverbell Army Heliport, a major training site at Pinal Airpark in Marana.

Defense contractors

Raytheon should fare better than other contractors if sequestration occurs because of its diverse produce portfolio, its strength in foreign sales and its status as the sole provider of several critical weapons.

Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems is the sole source of several mainstay U.S. weapon systems, including the Tomahawk cruise missile and the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The company is the prime contractor for the Standard Missile-3, a ship-based missile system that is the centerpiece of Obama's plan for a missile defense shield for Europe.

Raytheon Missile Systems - Southern Arizona's largest private employer with about 10,500 workers at the start of 2012 - hasn't had a mass layoff in three years. But program losses have led to large layoffs in the past.

Raytheon generally doesn't comment on staffing or budget matters. But in a statement to the Star, the company urged Congress to reach a bipartisan budget solution to avoid sequestration and suggested that innovation and efficiency should drive budget efforts.

"Raytheon is well-known for its high-quality technology and innovation," the company said. "These attributes, coupled with a continuous drive for efficiencies and affordability, represent what our country needs for lowering costs and achieving fiscal goals, rather than further deep, indiscriminate budget cuts."

David Wichner

Carol Ann Alaimo Carol Ann Alaimo Alexis Huicochea Perla Trevizo David Wichner

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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