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March 21, 2013

TNS officials brace for Head Start funding cuts

Agency to begin reviewing areas it can reduce costs without impacting services

By SALLY SEXTON

Earlier this month, numerous organizations took a hit at the announcement of the government’s sequestration, a set of budget cuts totaling more than $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

One of the many government-supported organizations affected is, Head Start, a program for early childhood and families services locally offered by Weatherford-based Texas Neighborhood Services.

With the official announcement of sequestration on March 1, Texas Neighborhood Services’ board and policy council members took action, implementing the organization’s contingency plan.

“This will not have an impact on [Head Start] this school year, so we’re leaving our services as they are,” TNS executive director Brad Manning said. “During the summer break, we will have time to evaluate what may happen long term.”

TNS board president Dick Chase proposed several immediate changes to be made, subject to ratification at the board’s March 28 meeting — including to suspend the TNS incentive policy and plan, suspend the discretionary payment for 401K contributions, defer any maintenance and repair items until sequestration has been resolved, review administrative and support positions to determine is any vacancies can be lapsed or eliminated, review any leases and determine if they can be cancelled due to decreased funding and review all administrative and support purchases of supplies to determine if any can be done without.

“We know of other organizations, such as Texas Workforce, that have closed locations, but we’re not going down that road,” Manning said. “Our goal is to continue our services with no layoffs and just get us to the summer.”

According to data produced by the government, the sequestration’s impact on Head Start in Texas alone would mean the elimination of services to approximately 4,800 children, as well as the loss of child care to 2,300 disadvantaged children and parents.

The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which expires Wednesday.

“The CR basically gives the government the ability to operate without a budget,” Manning said.

Manning added that as the House and Senate continue to come up with a budget resolution, tentatively set for April, board members will be keeping an eye on any updates out of the White House.

“We don’t anticipate any cuts to services, but if we do, the public will be aware,” he said.

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