Housing Bd. deals with declining funding

The word of the day was an increasingly familiar one: Sequestration.

Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the board of directors of the Housing Authority of Warren County focused heavily on the aftermath of the arbitrary federal program cuts that went into effect earlier this month after Congress failed to reach a deal to avoid them.

Much of the authority’s work is through programs subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“It is what it is,” authority Executive Director Tonya Mitchell-Weston said. “The funding reduced substantially.”

As a result of sequestration cuts, HUD is funding programs at a percentage of former budget amounts. The public housing, Section 8 housing and Section 8 administration programs are being funded at 81, 93 and 61 percent of former levels, respectively.

“Other housing authorities are already having to lay people off,” Mitchell-Weston noted. “Thankfully, we’re not in that position.”

“Thank God we have the money (to cover shortfalls),” Board Chairman Mike Lewis said.

The authority has reserve funds available beyond those provided by HUD subsidies.

Less money doesn’t equate to less mandates however.

“With the reduced funding we’re still required to comply with all the requirements,” Mitchell-Weston noted. “They’re asking you to do more, but they’re not giving you the funding.”

According to Mitchell-Weston, authority staff participated in a conference call on the issue with the HUD Pittsburgh Field Office.

“They’re trying to stay open and help as much as possible, but they’re not sure what going to happen either.” Mitchell-Weston said of the call.

The cuts come immediately after a year in which HUD required the authority to draw down reserve funds through reduced subsidies. The trend will continue through 2013, as the authority balances drawing down reserves HUD considers excessive while attempting to maintain enough to cover reduced subsidy funding.

“It’s a fine line we have to watch,” authority Treasurer Tracy Kranak said.

“We’re looking at spending down just under half,” Mitchell-Weston noted.

The authority did receive three months of subsidy funding, but it may be the last it will receive this year.

Public housing authorities identify their properties as Asset Management Projects (AMPs), which designate a group of properties into a single operating entity for purposes of management.

The authority received $14,778 in AMP 4 (Rouse Manor) and $92,414 in AMP 1 (public housing sites excluding Rouse Manor) subsidies.

“I don’t know if we’ll see any more subsidy since we didn’t get anything last year,” Kranak said

The authority can also draw down approximately $308,000 in capital funding still available from last year if needed.

“That’s for 2012,” Kranak noted. “Now 2013 is a guessing game. Nobody knows if capital funding is going to be available.”

Capital funding is intended for investment in larger projects, such as repair and building costs. The authority does not have unfunded capital projects scheduled for 2013, but funds could be utilized to help cover shortfalls.

“We put some things back so it wouldn’t hurt us if we didn’t receive anything,” Mitchell-Weston said. “Everything is sort of in a holding pattern for now.”