If Congress can't come to a resolution over the $85 billion in spending scheduled to go into effect on Friday, it's going to be a disaster for towns like Hamden, which will see cuts in a number of areas, including education and social services.
That's why federal officials need to act now, their local counterparts say, and to that end the Legislative Council approved a proclamation Monday urging the town's federal representatives to take the steps to avoid the latest fiscal cliff threat.
"This will not only effect the Governor's budget, but if they cut any more funds on the federal level we will be in dire straits as a town," Councilman Harry Gagliardi said.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress agreed to the automatic cuts but none really thought they would take effect without a bipartisan agreement to stop them, Councilman Scott Harris said.
"In the middle of the national debate on how to reduce the national debt, both parties agreed to the cuts that are so distasteful that they would be literally forced into achieving responsible debt reduction -- so intolerable the public woultn' let them go through," Harris said.
But now they could go through on Friday if Congress can't agree on a solution. And in that case, the state of Connecticut will lose $8.7 million in education funding and $6.3 million in special education money, Harris said.
It also means that 500 children won't be able to take advantage of the Head Start program, $201,000 will be lost that goes toward nutrition assistance for the elderly, and 1,600 children won't receive vacinations, he said.
Click here to read what the White House predicts will be the effect of the cuts will be on Connecticut.
The proclamation was crafted specifically not to place the blame on one party, Harris said.
"We are not criticizing one particular federal official or political party," Harris said, noting that leaders from both parties have come out opposed to the cuts.
"There's tremendous strength in having people on the ground in local communities speaking up -- it sends a powerful message," Harris said. "If we can get hundreds of communities around the country talking about this, we could have the type of affect we want."
Supt. of Schools Fran Rabinowitz said Monday that school officials are determining exactly how the cuts would affect Hamden schools.
"We are looking into it," she said.
But it's a given that if it goes through, the town is going to take a hit, Legislative Council members said.
"There are some devastating cuts that will take place," Councilman Austin Cesare said.
Following is the proclamation approved by the Legislative Council:
TOWN OF HAMDEN
RESOLUTION OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
URGING FEDERAL OFFICIALS TO ABANDON AUTOMATIC CUTS KNOWN AS “SEQUESTER”
WHEREAS, the Legislative Council of Hamden, Connecticut does hereby proclaim and resolve as follows:
WHEREAS, the State of Connecticut faces a tremendously challenging budget year;
WHEREAS, a series of automatic reductions in spending at the federal level, known as the “sequester,” will begin on March 1, 2013, which will further reduce budget flexibility at the state and, ultimately, the local level;
WHEREAS, the State of Connecticut will lose approximately $8.7 million in federal grants for primary and secondary education, as well as an additional $6.3 million for the education of children with disabilities, increasing the burden on taxpayers in the Town of Hamden to shoulder the difference;
WHEREAS, at a time when public officials in the Town of Hamden and across the State of Connecticut acknowledge the critical importance of early education, the “sequester” will eliminate Head Start and Early Head Start services for approximately 500 children in Connecticut;
WHEREAS, the State of Connecticut will lose $201,000 in federal grant funds for nutrition assistance for the elderly, putting a further strain on the Town of Hamden’s Elderly Services budget;
WHEREAS, almost 1,600 Connecticut children will not be able to receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, and influenza, undermining the Town of Hamden’s efforts to improve access to health care for its growing low-income population;
WHEREAS, many other cuts to federal and state grants will filter to the local level;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY PROCLAIMED AND RESOLVED by the Legislative Council of Hamden, Connecticut that we urge federal officials to abandon automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester” and achieve sustainable debt and deficit reduction in a responsible manner and timeframe.