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Utah Schools Will Feel Impact of "Fiscal Cliff"

Utah schools have millions of dollars in federal funding at stake if congress fails to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” by early next week. The “fiscal cliff” is a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that will go into effect at the first of the year if federal lawmakers and the president cannot come to an agreement on next year’s budget. But most schools in Utah would have some time to prepare for big cuts.

The State Office of Education estimates Utah schools will lose about $25 million in federal funding next year if congress doesn’t come to an agreement by Tuesday. Bruce Williams is the Utah state school associate superintendent for business and operations. He says schools aren’t rushing to plan for the potential cuts.

“I think many of them are realizing that there is an issue out there but knowing that they’ll need to deal with it during the next budget cycle if it becomes a reality,” he says.

But Williams notes some schools will have to deal with immediate cuts if an agreement isn’t reached. Those are school districts that receive aid because they’re on some portion of federal land.

“There are a couple of districts that would be affected, San Juan district, being the largest recipient of those funds. They would be affected during the 2012-2013 year," he says.

Individual school districts must decide how to prepare for the impact. Federal funding for each district varies based on a number of factors, but Williams says the cuts would have the most impact on schools with the most low income and disabled students.

Utah already struggles to fund public schools. The state spends less on individual students than any state in the nation.

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