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Hinesville Hit By Sequester
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 1 year ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Schools with military families are dealing with budget shortfalls from the loss of Impact Aid. (Photo by U.S. Navy)
Schools with military families are dealing with budget shortfalls from the loss of Impact Aid. (Photo by U.S. Navy)
While Congress works to iron out a budget, the so called sequester still stands.

With it, areas that rely on federal spending are bracing for across the board cuts.

Click here for the White House explanation of the sequester.

Military communities are particularly hit.

Liberty County Assistant Schools Superintendent Jason Rogers drives around Hinesville and points to a Shoney's.

He says the restaurant is normally packed.

But just like sales tax collections in this military dependent city, things haven't been the same at lunch here since the March sequester -- automatic cuts enacted when Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree on federal spending.

Click here for more information on how the sequester affects Georgia.

"Generally we average $650,000-$675,000 per month in collections," says Rogers. "This past month we were down to about $550,000."

Rogers says people started cutting back as civilian work at Ft. Stewart dried up in anticipation of the budget reductions.

But now that the cuts here, lunch is only the start of their effects on Hinesville.

Energetic third graders dance with hula-hoops inside the Button Gwinnett Elementary School gym.

Above them, the building's roof is hardly something to shake your hips at.

Sections look torn.

"The money that we get does go into our general fund. And we do have a lot of flexibility on where we spend that," says Rogers. "It doesn't have all the ties that a lot of our other state and federal money has."

The federal government pays 23 Georgia school districts Impact Aid because they have military bases that can't be taxed.

In Liberty County, the funds make up 10% of the district budget.

Statewide, Impact Aid is set to go down by $38 million in the sequester. Liberty County High School principal Paula Scott says she might have no choice but to reduce graduation coaches.

Click here for the political definition of sequestration according to Auburn University.

"There are some things that you have to do," says Liberty County High School principal Paula Scott. "You have to fix a leaking roof. You have to fix something that's a structural issue. Funds have to be diverted and they have to come from somewhere."

State officials credit the coaches with improving graduation rates.

In downtown Hinesville, bank teller Kim Payne takes a break on a park bench.

She says military customers line up on pay day and she's frustrated federal lawmakers think there's money to spare.

"We have two high schools and my daughter is in one of the high schools," says Scott. "And I know that they have it where they can only use so much paper. That tells you how tight the budget is there."

Of course, Liberty County is used to scrimping.

When the troops go overseas, businesses slow down and wait for their return.

Hinesville mayor Jim Thomas says the sequester is a little like a deployment.

"The worst period of our troops leaving was probably 1991 when everybody left at one time," says Thomas.

Except no one knows where this one is going.

Congress could reverse the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts.

But not before it's already had an affect on places like Hinesville.

Click here for an explanation of how the sequester by House Majority leader, Eric Cantor.

"I think that those folks have a very tough job to do. But I think that they could have done it better," says Thomas speaking of Washington lawmakers.

The sequester became the law of the land three weeks ago.

The Defense Department announced its first furloughs last week.