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About $17 million will have to be cut from the 2004 Department of Defense Education Activity budget, but students’ programs will not be affected, according to the DODEA.

The adjustment represents a 1.1 percent decrease in DODEA’s $1.5 billion annual budget.

Spokesman Charles Hoff said $1.8 million of the $17 million would be cut from the operations budget at DODEA headquarters in Arlington, Va. The rest, he said, would be absorbed by reductions to the maintenance-and-repair budget.

Hoff did not specify how much would be cut from the Europe, Pacific and stateside school districts.

“DODEA specifically allocated these cuts to avoid any negative impact on educational programs and services for students,” Hoff said in a written response to Stars and Stripes.

“Some maintenance and repair projects may be delayed. However, DODEA remains hopeful that additional monies will be restored sometime later in the fiscal year.”

One year ago, for example, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe was ordered to cut $18 million from its portion of the DODEA budget but $15.5 million was later restored by DODEA and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The restored $15.5 million, Hoff said, was used to pay for technology updates at schools, materials, classroom furniture and maintenance-and-repair projects.

Every year, DODEA has to estimate how much it will need to spend on education because the federal budget usually isn’t passed and implemented around Oct. 1, the start of the federal budget year. The school year, however, starts over the summer.

Usually the projections are fairly accurate, but budget crunches in many federal departments and agencies left DODEA with the shortfall, which is not as severe as last year’s.

Frank O’Gara, a spokesman for DODDS-Europe, said that district officials will decide which projects and repairs are put on hold and which will go forward.

“It’s sometimes easier for headquarters to make changes in the budget than local school principals,” O’Gara said.

O’Gara said that no jobs will be cut because of the budget reduction.

“That’s not a possibility,” O’Gara said.

O’Gara said that budget officials are worried about the weakened U.S. dollar, which makes it more expensive for Americans to rent housing and buy goods and services on the European economy. On Monday, it cost $1.24 to buy 1 euro worth of goods.

“It’s a major concern and something folks here [at DODDS-Europe] are looking at carefully,” O’Gara said.

O’Gara said that increases to DODDS employees’ post allowances might be forthcoming to compensate for the weakened dollar.

“We’re looking to our headquarters to work with Defense officials on another allocation or some creative ways to deal with it,” O’Gara said.

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