Stuart Air Show, Vero Beach Air Show will not be grounded by federal budget cuts

Both the Stuart and Vero Beach air shows will take place as scheduled later this year even if they have to deal with the absence of some military acts.

Stuart Air Show organizers have some ideas to deal with the possible loss of military acts as a result of defense department cuts that may take place because of a federal budget impasse.

"We are kind of blessed we are at the very end of the air show season, and we have a lot of time to work through this," said Don McGlynn, military coordinator and vice president of the Stuart Air Show, which will be Nov. 2 and 3.

The Vero Beach Air Show is scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6 .

"Basically we are still full-steam ahead," said Vero Beach Air Show Director Justina Anuszewski.

Anuszewski said although she realizes many spectators look forward to the military acts, there are plenty of civilian acts available that can still provide "a family, fun-filled event for the spectators."

McGlynn, in a news release sent earlier Thursday in regard to the Stuart Air Show, wrote "our scheduled F-22 Raptor and F-18 Hornet demo teams plan to continue preparations for the 2013 air show season for the next 30 days, in anticipation that Congress will find a resolution to the military budget uncertainties soon."

Because the show is so important to the community, contingency plans are being developed in case sequestration goes on indefinitely, wrote McGlynn. The air show already has committed to bringing several new acts to the lineup.

Several other air shows around the country already have announced cancellations because of the anticipated budget cuts.

The grounding of military acts traveling to air shows is just one of the impacts that could be seen along the Treasure Coast from the political impasse in Washington that could lead to $85 billion in automatic spending cuts.

Federally funded school programs that aid thousands of Treasure Coast schoolchildren and air traffic control towers at both the St. Lucie County International Airport and Witham Field in Martin County could be affected.

Local school districts could see about a 5 percent cut in funding for federal programs designed to aid disadvantaged students and those with disabilities as well those learning English. Also, money for teacher improvements and vocational training could be cut as a result of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts.

The cuts, however, would not take effect in the current budget year, which ends June 30. The cuts would not impact the federal money used to provide breakfast and lunch to qualified students.

At one time it was thought the cuts could be higher, but recent statements by the U.S. Department of Education indicate the cuts would amount to 5 percent.

Carter Morrison, assistant superintendent of finance and operations for the Indian River School District, estimated a 5 percent cut would amount to a loss of $453,526 for district programs. Martin County schools officials estimate the district could lose more than $750,000.

St. Lucie County schools were estimating a possible loss of $1.64 million to $2.46 million, but that was based on cuts averaging between 6 and 9 percent.

Morrison said money was held in reserve in anticipation of the cuts. Timothy Bargeron, assistant superintendent of business services for the St. Lucie County School District, also indicated there is some money carried over annually in the district's federal funds that can be used to help mitigate the cuts.

Both the St. Lucie airport and Witham Field are among the list of more than 200 airports where the Federal Aviation Administration says air traffic control towers could be closed.

Closures of the air traffic control towers would not mean the closure of the airports, but would make pilots more reliant on direct communications between each other when landing at the fields.

St. Lucie County International Airport Manager John Wiatnak said it is his understanding that any closures would not happen until at least April. He also thinks the airport may have enough takeoffs and landings to survive what could be an initial closing of about 100 air traffic control towers.

Martin County Administrator Taryn Kryzda said it's still too early to know who will be affected. She said that criteria other than number of operations could be used in determining where air traffic control towers are closed. For instance, she said, the FAA may not want to shut down the towers at all three airports close together — like ones in Fort Pierce, Stuart and north Palm Beach.

Vero Beach Airport Director Eric Menger thinks the FAA will look at reducing other areas before shutting down the towers. He said when furloughs were done a couple of years ago, administrative positions, such writing grants, were cut rather than jobs directly related to air safety. If the towers are impacted, he said, they may be closed only part of the day.

Menger said elimination of some of the military visits to the air shows might be a more likely

area.

"I could see if they had to look for places to cut, I would think that would be logical places to reduce expenditures," he said.

There are other programs from transportation to housing that could be affected eventually, although county officials along the Treasure Coast were unable to cite any areas where they expected to see immediate impacts.

 

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