Carroll leaders explain local effects of government shutdown

By Allen Worrell Editor

October 9, 2013

With the federal government shutdown causing gridlock in Washington since the midnight hour Oct. 1, the Congressional impasse could also have many trickle-down effects on Carroll County.

Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe said the government shutdown is already affecting local government in some ways, especially in regards to ongoing school renovation projects and water and sewer projects that involve federal grant dollars. In particular, Carroll County is still in the midst of a renovation project at Carroll County High School that includes the renovation of the existing HVAC system, the construction of a new STEM lab, and the installation of a natural gas line to the school and other areas of Hillsville.

“The school project is federal money. If you can’t close on that loan you have significant problems. All of those are federal dollars being put into Carroll,” Larrowe said. “You have contractors who are not able to pay their folks for work done because we can’t pay them because the feds can’t process pay requests. So there is a trickle-down effect and it does affect us.”

Larrowe fears that a prolonged government shutdown could put more people out of work besides the 800,000 furloughed federal government employees.

“Everything is getting clogged up right now,” he said. “I would suspect somewhere along the way these private companies won’t be able to continue to provide work for their employees and would start laying them off as well.”

Additionally, Larrowe said work continues on ongoing water and sewer projects in the county that are accumulating invoices.

“And once those invoices are turned in we are supposed to process those. Those have to be approved by the feds, and if there is no money to allocate for those projects then the bills don’t get paid,” Larrowe said. “At some point, the contractors would have to say, ‘We can’t do any more work until you end up paying us.’ It’s the same thing with the natural gas line. They are almost to the (high school) building today, but we can’t turn in any pay request to the feds because we can’t close on the loan because the government is shutdown.”

Brian Spencer, Chairman of the Carroll County School Board, said the government shutdown has not affected federal pass-through dollars to the school system yet. However, a shutdown of more than two months would start affected schools locally.

“The shutdown would have to last through the end of November before it starts hindering our flow of money. It would almost have to be shut down for about 60 days before it has that effect on some of our programs and so forth,” Spencer said. “You do worry about pass-through dollars and things, but the money has already been allocated so we are in the clear. I do know if it lasts through November we will be having a different conversation in December.”

According to Patricia Wright of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), the shutdown has no impact on the U.S. Department of Education (USED) grant funding to be used by school divisions for the 2013-2014 school year since that funding is authorized under the fiscal year 2012 and 2013 federal budgets and is unaffected by the lack of a federal budget or continuing resolution for federal fiscal year 2014.

“In fact, VDOE is beginning to receive the October 1 portions of 2013-2014 funding for the major USED grants such as Title I, IDEA, and Perkins that will be communicated to you soon,” Wright wrote to local school officials. “USED is maintaining a skeleton staff in Washington during the shutdown to continue processing grant reimbursements to states and LEAs.”

Wright went on to say monthly reimbursements for the federal School Lunch and School Breakfast programs do rely on funding from a federal fiscal year 2014 appropriation, for meals served on or after October 1. However, the immediate impact is delayed since monthly reimbursements are made 30 days after the close of the month.

“The shutdown could impact funding for the federal school meal programs if it continues into November,” Wright wrote.

Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner said the biggest factor the shutdown has had on his office has come in the lack of federal law enforcement help from agencies such as the DEA and U.S. Marshal’s Service.

“I’m in training on missing and unidentified persons, and several of the federal instructors are furloughed and haven’t come to speak,” Gardner said.