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Local effects of federal budget cuts still unknown

Local government officials are scrambling to assess the impact — still largely unknown — of the $85 billion in federal spending cuts due to begin taking effect Friday.

Unless or until President Barack Obama and Congress reach another budget agreement, the so-called sequester cuts are expected to trim long-term unemployment benefits, cause airport delays and reduce services at national parks, among other national impacts.

In California, a nearly $90 million funding cut for public schools could eliminate 1,210 teacher and aide jobs, while Head Start services for about 8,200 children would be eliminated, according to a White House report.

But officials said Wednesday they haven't calculated the impact at the county level.

"We don't know how this is going to play out," said Jim Leddy, the county's governmental affairs manager.

"It gets very complicated," he said, noting that some federal funding comes directly to the county and some is distributed by the state.

County agencies, including health and social services and the Sheriff's Office, are trying to determine how they may be affected, Leddy said.

More than half of the nation's 2.1 million federal government workers may be required to take furloughs, which cannot start until April 1.

Possible closure of the control tower at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, which Leddy said would idle about 14 Federal Aviation Administration workers, won't happen until April.

Alaska Airlines service at the airport would continue during a tower shutdown, airport officials said.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said last week the sequester could cost California 225,000 federal jobs.

Sonoma County's 1,400 federal workers make up less than 1 percent of the 180,700-person workforce, a marginal amount, said Robert Eyler, director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.

But federal program cuts could lop off jobs at nonprofit organizations or government agencies, and every job loss ripples through the economy in reduced spending on goods and services, he said.

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