By Rodney Wallace
Pawnee Co. Extension
LARNED — As many people are aware, the future of the Pawnee County Extension Program is at a crossroad and is about to change. There are many financial reasons for this, which hopefully this article will explain.
The Pawnee County Extension office provides services for 4-H youth, crops and livestock, lawn and garden and family and consumer sciences, which includes foods, nutrition, healthy lifestyles and budgeting.
Over the last several years, funding has not kept pace with the rise in expenses which has caused the Extension Council to use the reserve funds.
Inflation from 1997 to 2011 has averaged 2.7 percent and the increase in funding from Pawnee County has only averaged 0.9 percent per year in this time frame. To put this into perspective, in 1997 the county appropriated $94,000 to the Extension Council. In 2011, it would take $132,680 to equal the appropriation of 1997 adjusted for inflation. That is a $38,680 difference.
The appropriation from the county has been at $107,500 for the last several years, which still leaves the Extension Council $25,180 short when adjusted for inflation. The Extension Council asked for an increase in funding for the 2012 year of $13,584 and was denied the increase and left at $107,500.
When this decision was made known to the Executive Board, they decided that the only way to bring the budget down was to cut the budget. Over the years we have cut operating expenses to the point that if they are cut any further, many services will have to be discontinued.
To accomplish the cuts the Executive Board cut $1,600 out of the operating budget and $9,700 out of the salaries and pledged $3,864 from the reserves. This is only a stop-gap measure, as inflation continues to rise, even this budget will not be able to survive the test of time.
To be fair and balanced, the federal and state funding has also not kept up with inflation. In fact, funding from both sources have declined. In 2008 Extension lost funding from the state in the form of publication allowance of $1,255. Extension also lost funding from the federal government of $1,903 in the form of penalty mail.
Also, starting in 2002, the Kansas State University system stopped paying the county´s share of the agent´s health benefits. That represents a shift of $3,679 to the county´s budget and has increased to $8,108 today. It not hard to see that the Extension Program is being squeezed from two directions.
In 2011, the Executive Board made the decision to cut the part time position which only saved about $1,800 per year. They also decided to put in place a office policy handbook and to limit the amount of comp time allowed.
If funding is to remain at current levels, then there are really only two choices that can be made by the present or future boards. One is to eliminate one of the three full-time positions in the Extension office or the other would be to form a Extension District where two or more counties combine.
The present board has made all of the cuts it can without cutting services. The Executive Board is committed to trying to save all three positions.
We would encourage anyone who is concerned attend the third public meeting on the topic at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19 at the J.A. Haas Building on the Pawnee County Fairgrounds at Larned.
For questions or information, call (620) 285-6901; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.