The School Board voted 4-4 with one abstaining, failing to a pass a resolution that opposed sequestration of the federal budget.
Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin), Thomas Reed (at large), Jeff Morse (Dulles) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) voted for the resolution.
Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run), Debbie Rose (Algonkian), Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Bill Fox (Leesburg) voted against.
Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) abstained from voting. His vote would made a difference between passage and failure.
“I don’t think it’s fair to force board members to sign legislation they don’t agree with,” Hornberger said after the meeting as his reason for abstention.
He said the School Board was going over its purview in trying to influence the federal government.
Sequestration is a package of $1.2 trillion cuts to the federal budget from 2013 to 2021, evenly split between defense spending and discretionary domestic spending. It was enacted as part of the Budget Control Act, which was the end result of the debt ceiling debate in summer 2011.
The sequestration process would take effect Jan. 1, 2013, according to The Washington Post.
The process is a “last resort” measure that would be enacted if Congress can’t come to a deal that cuts the same amount from selected parts of the budget.
The motion opposed sequestration on the grounds that it would cut $2.7 billion in educational programs nationwide, including an estimated $1.5 million from the school system’s budget, according to staff.
Members who spoke against the resolution said Loudoun shouldn’t be dependent on the federal government for funding.
“I think that localities need to get used to having less reliance on the federal government and more reliance on local resources,” Fox said. “It might be an uncomfortable step but I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
Turgeon said the federal government had too much of a role in the running of schools, including unfunded mandates, or regulations without funding.
Kuesters said it was hypocritical to believe that the federal government should have to cut back with the exception of Loudoun County’s schools.
“The direct impact is not that large compared to our total funding,” Kuesters said. “Everybody’s going to learn to have to get along with less.”
Board members who voted for the resolution disagreed. Morse said it was “about time” the School Board “meddled in federal affairs.”
“I don’t see it as a face off with the federal government,” Morse said. “I see it as board members taking an active role to protect funding, whether it comes with strings or not.”
Reed pointed out that about 57 percent of the sequestration cuts would effect the Department of Defense, which would harm the contracting industry that Loudoun is largely dependent on.
“If that goes we will be in a recession that will make the last one will look like a [economic] boom,” Reed said.
Bergel urged residents and board members to take the effects of sequestration seriously, calling to mind the layoffs and cuts in last year’s budget.
“Think about what it would mean if we can’t build more schools, if we can’t hire the people to operate our schools,” Bergel said. “It’s not hyperbole. It’s real. We’ve heard this discussion happening at many levels.”
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