Anchorage Braces for Sequestration Impacts

Photo from People Mover Facebook.
Photo from People Mover Facebook.

President Obama announced Friday morning that Congressional leaders had failed to reach a agreement to avoid sequestration. This triggers automatic spending cuts to balance the budget. Communities around the country are bracing for the cuts, including Anchorage.

Officials with the Municipality expect sequestration to impact the People Mover bus system. Lance Wilber, the Director of Public Transportation for the Municipality of Anchorage, says that’s because his department’s budget is heavily supported by federal grants.

“Roughly 20 percent of our operating budget is supported by operating dollars from the federal government. And we use those funds to really keep our system on route. On the capital side, it’s more significant — roughly 70 to 80 percent of our capital improvements are supported by the federal transit administration.”

Wilber says sequestration could slow down bus and bus stop improvements as well customer service upgrades. According to officials at the Anchorage Police Department, grants that support DWI and Seatbelt patrols could be reduced, as well as those that provide funding to fight Internet Crimes against children and support task forces on human trafficking and illegal drugs.

Anticipated sequestration reductions for the 2013-2014 Anchorage school District budget equal about 6-million dollars, and were included in recent budget cuts. Chad Stitler, ASD budget director says the district is watching department of defense reductions at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson closely because they could impact the district down the road.

“As the federal footprint in Alaska is reduced, we expect that will also reduce the population and the enrollment inside of the district and so we’ve considered that along with the actual immediate impacts of the sequestration.”

The district gets a little less than 10 percent of their funding from federal monies. Most sequestration cuts would probably take time to trickle down the local level — until the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.