Albany Assistant City Manager Wes Smith holds a document explaining sequester cuts during a town hall meeting Saturday at the Albany Police Department’s East Albany Precinct.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Sequestration reared its head in Albany Friday when the Federal Aviation Administration announced that the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport's control tower was among 149 nationwide to feel the sting of automated federal budget cuts.
The local tower is one of five in the state set for closure. The other four are in Athens, Lawrenceville, Macon and Cobb County. Flights in and out of Albany will be handled by air traffic controllers in Jacksonville, Fla.
At a town hall meeting Saturday at the Albany Police Department's East Albany precinct, Albany Assistant City Manager Wes Smith, accompanied by airport manager Yvette Aehle, said more local cuts are likely on the way.
"Right now we are living our own version of 'March Madness'," Smith said. We know more cuts are coming, but right now we don't know where they will be coming from. There are a lot of nervous people at the Marine base right now. We're anticipating that contract workers on the base will be furloughed one day per pay period."
And that is the best case scenario.
The $85 billion in automated federal budget cuts, which took affect on March 1, are evenly split between domestic and defense programs, with half affecting defense discretionary spending and the rest affecting both mandatory and discretionary domestic spending.
"The idea that the sequester would actually take place was so crazy that the House would not allow it to happen ... but it did," Smith said. "The whole situation is so fluid That I really don't like talking about it because what I say today could change tomorrow."
Across the board cuts will take place in the military ($42.7 billion), domestic discretionary ($28.7), Medicare ($9.9 billion) and $4 billion in other mandatory cuts.
"I imagine some contracts (at the MCLB) will be placed on hold," Smith said. "It's the uncertainty of the thing that hurts the most. I spent all morning preparing for this meeting and I'm still not sure if my notes are accurate or not."
Education will also take a hit. According to the Washington Post, Georgia can expect to lose $28.6 million in federal money due to the cuts.
The cuts will place at risk the jobs of 390 Georgia teachers and decrease services to 54,000 Students at 80 in-state schools. The decrease in funding for students with disabilities will amount to $17.5 million and reduce school staff by 210.
At the airport, Aehle remains concerned about the future when the FAA drawdowns begin on April 7.
"There are still a lot of unanswered questions, like what happens when we turn the lights off (on the tower)?" Aehle said. "We can still operate but it's new and something we're going to have to get used to."