So what was at stake for northern Berkshire in all of Washington’s so-called fiscal cliff/debt ceiling negotiations?
Before a deal was reached, local elected officials and the head Berkshire County’s premier planning agency helped shed light on life over the fiscal cliff.
Without a deal, uncertainty would have continued to haunt national markets on down to local ledgers.
Monday, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright said he views the "crisis" as having "serious implications" -- bureaucratically manufactured or not.
"We had some pretty high hopes that we’d see an increase in state funding this year, and those hopes have been somewhat dashed," Alcombright said. "It’s a wait and see game, and maybe things will turn in the right direction. If not, we’ll hang in there. We’ll survive."
Alcombright finds the potential for market volatility "most concerning. If the markets take another deep turn south like they did four-and-a-half years ago, what’s the implication for state revenues? Will it lead to another round of cuts for cities and schools?"
Nat Karns, Executive Director of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), was able to fill in here.
Although, "In reality, we probably don’t really know all the ramifications because many of the impacts will be a step or two removed," Karns said in an email, one can deduce potential effects by looking at local entities touched by federal money -- including schools, city and town development funds, federal grant funds available by application, and support programs like food stamps, housing vouchers, job training, employment services and BRPC itself, whose budget is 80 percent federal.
Automatic, across the board cuts threaten to reduce federal spending by 8 to 9 percent in all program areas -- staggering into effect the longer lawmakers fail to agree.
If a reduction in federal funds forced state lawmakers to go looking for fat to trim, northern Berkshire is likely to register an impact.
North Adams, a mini-entitlement community that receives an annual allotment of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, could suffer if these federal monies fell prey.
"What people [at the state level] deem to be nonessential and what we deem to be nonessential are two very different things," Alcombright said.
Adams applies competitively for CDBG funds each year with a high rate of success, and would be hurt if fewer awards were available.
Williamstown, too, seeks a federal grant to relocate the Spruces Mobile Home Park.
Karns said in the case of reductions, the state and communities would have to find ways of dealing with effected populations.
"That can involve trying to replace lost money through State and local sources to maintain services, trying to find non-profit support to take on those services, or dealing with the multiple, complex, interrelated issues that the lack of support for the impacted people will have on the community," he said in the email.
Local hospitals, shelters, schools and more could all be touched by the process Karns described.
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams) advocated caution for local communities and planners, as the coming debt ceiling talks -- following any possible tentative agreements in Congress over taxes and unemployment -- will likely continue for weeks.
"A pleasant surprise would be better than calculating wrong and having to say later that we’ve got to cut back," she said Tuesday.
To reach Phil Demers,