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Sequester Cuts Should Miss Kent Federal Grants

Projects already in the pipeline shouldn't see changes in grant awards

Kent city officials are not yet overly concerned with the federal sequester that took effect Friday and forced millions in cuts in national government spending.

Though exactly how the sequester will affect local governments remains a somewhat murky picture.

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said local projects that have already been awarded money from specific federal programs should be safe from the axe that fell in Washington, D.C., three days ago.

Ruller said federal grants for projects such as the replacement of the Harvey Redmond Bridge to the Kramer Ball Fields, the new bike trail along the Cuyahoga River, the Fairchild Avenue Bridge and other similar projects either under way, finished or well into planning stages won't be effected.

"Those funds have already been allocated and appropriated to us, so there doesn't appear to be any risk of having to return those funds," he said. "Which would mean we are not expecting any immediate fiscal impact in any of those project funds."

In recent years the city has seemingly been a magnet for federal dollars.

Kent has pulled in millions of dollars in federal grants in the past few years for a multitude of projects, including: restoration of Plum Creek Park; the Fairchild Avenue Bridge project; and the big $20 million grant, which was awarded to PARTA, for the Kent Central Gateway transit center.

Ruller said the city doesn't rely on federal dollars for any regular programmed local services and called it a good news, bad news situation for Kent.

"The good news is we don't receive a lot of federal funds, so our financial exposure to the cuts is fairly small," Ruller said. "The bad news is we don't get a lot of federal funds to help relieve the local tax burden for the many operating services that we provide."

Ruller added that it's still unclear how Kent may see ripple effects from the sequester in the future.

"Different sources are reporting that Ohio could lose ($6.8 million) in environmental grant funding, which could have an impact at a later date if we intended to apply for those grants," he said. "Also, there are estimates that Ohio could lose as much as ($3.3 million) in health related grants for prevention and treatment of substance abuse programs that could in some way trickle down to the city's health department."

The only immediate concern for the city is if the annual federal dispersements of community development block grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"Which are approximately $300,000 a year that we distribute to area social service agences or use for some in-house services as well," Ruller said. "I have not heard whether the HUD funds are at risk but we're getting ready to make the CDBG grant awards for 2013, so that may be an area where we have more immediate problems if CDBG programs are targetted for cuts."

Such federal dollars have been used in the past in Kent to support local homeless shelters and to rebuild streets in poorer neighborhoods.

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