The Star-Ledger

N.J. Advocacy Groups, Irvington Mayor Call On Congress To Avert The Sequester

The Star-Ledger — Wednesday, February 20, 2013

By Eunice Lee / The Star-Ledger

IRVINGTON — Federal cuts known as the sequester, which are now likely to take effect on March 1, will have a dire effect on his township, Mayor Wayne Smith said today.

With a little more than a week before Congress must make a decision on the pending sequestration, Smith and groups like New Jersey Citizen Action called on federal lawmakers to take action to avoid $85 billion in automatic cuts to discretionary spending.

They held a press conference today at the Irvington Fire Department headquarters to highlight the drastic impact the cuts could have on a community like Irvington.

If the March 1 cuts take effect, the town could lose up to 19 firefighters currently funded through the federal SAFER grant from a department of 114 firefighters, Chief Gary Shumlich said.

"It's not just a national problem. It has a local effect," Ann Vardeman, regional organizer for New Jersey Citizen Action, said.

Such drastic cuts, realistically, would affect response times and have safety implications, according to Shumlich.

"It poses a risk to not just citizens but to firefighters," he added.

Also on the chopping block: a roughly $100,000 federally funded program for at-risk youth at Berkeley Terrace School.

Four staff members oversee the year-round program — held after school and then all-day during the summer — that serves 60 youth, according to Smith.

But all that could disappear, he said.

"We stand to lose significant services to the most vulnerable citizens of Irvington," the mayor said.

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