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April 26, 2013

Head Start budget cuts hit Navarro, Palo Pinto counties

Federal sequestration forced agency to make staff, classroom reductions

By SALLY SEXTON

In the face of federal budget cuts, Texas Neighborhood Services has decided to reduce the number of  Head Start classrooms and staff in Navarro and Palo Pinto counties.

TNS and many other agencies that receive federal funds were notified in March of federal sequestration, reducing federal spending by $1.2 trillion. TNS began looking at making across-the-board 5 percent budget cuts. Besides operating regional Head Start facilities, Weatherford-based TNS provides financial assistance programs in its service region.

On Wednesday, the TNS board of directors was given three cost-cutting options. They chose the third option, which called for cutting three Head Start classrooms (from 12 down to nine) in Navarro County and two Early Head Start classrooms (from six to four) in Palo Pinto County.

The board’s decision went Wednesday evening to its policy council, a committee of parents, which reviewed and backed the board’s decision.

“We’ve been operating under a continuing resolution because a budget hasn’t been approved for years,” TNS executive director Brad Manning said, “but with the sequestration, the cuts are going to have to come from somewhere.”

Manning said the agency will begin making the reductions during the summer, “when it won’t disturb our classes or our staff.”

Option one would have reduced two Head Start classrooms in Navarro County and one Head Start classroom each in Wise and Jack counties, as well as one Early Head Start classroom in Wise, Jack and Palo Pinto counties. Option two would have reduced three Head Start classrooms in Navarro County, one Early Head Start classroom in Palo Pinto County and one classroom in Somerville County.

TNS originally faced funding reductions of $557,688 through its Community Services Block Grant, Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, but was notified that $56,147 was already removed from CEAP for a total reduction of $501,521. That means $20,000 will be taken from CSBG; $293,205 from Head Start; and $188,316 from Early Head Start.

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