I am writing, not only as a former K-State Research and Extension (KSRE) executive board Secretary, but also as a resident of Barton County. I was at the Public Budget Hearing Monday, and I am very disappointed in the Commissioners reduction in funding for KSRE. The Commissioners are wanting KSRE to use their reserves of $24,000 to complete the funding for next year. While the Commissioners are not asking for a check to return the funds, they are saying the funds must be used to cover the deficit of the funding they are giving. In my book not much difference. Extension is not allowed to go into debt, and so needs those funds for emergency and unexpected expenses in the future. The Extension Board tightened its belt and found a way to get through previous tough cuts while not lowering the standard of service provided. The belt just can’t get any tighter.
The Barton County KSRE provides service to people in every walk of life, county wide. KSRE is more than 4H and the county fair. The KSRE county agents are here for our residents year round. When our residents have questions they can call the Barton County Extension office, and if the agents dont know the answer they will find it, or point the citizen to the proper place. We have three outstanding, educated and caring agents employed by KSRE in Barton County, who provide a variety of educational services to our residents. In addition to their degrees in their respective areas, they also have full access to K-State personnel if they need additional or specialized information. Donna Krug is the FACS agent, the research based services she helps provide include nutritional, parenting, financial, and health programming, in additional to traditional programs such as sewing, cooking and household management. Donna’s expertise is amazing, and she has given presentations on her programming at both the state as well as National levels. Berny Unruh is our 4H agent. She takes charge of the programming in all 4H related areas; this includes all of the areas of study for projects (which is very extensive), leadership skills for our youth, training for the club leaders and chaperones, advising the 4H county council and the various clubs and committees, competitions and shows. The Ag and natural resources agent is Alicia Boor. Alicia has extensive knowledge in areas of farming, animal husbandry and horticulture. She is responsible for all the questions, education and programming covering those areas, in addition she assists with the 4H related programs. KSRE also has one of the most diligent and conscientious publicly elected volunteer Boards of any organization. Monthly they meet and conduct the business of the KSRE, and oversee the spending, personnel matters, programming and a wide variety of other matters.
During the Public Budget hearing on Monday, the room was packed with those there to show support for our KSRE. There were people from every age and walk of life who spoke out in support. Youth to Elderly, and everyone in between. These are the people impacted by Extension. These are our county residents. These are the people who will be short changed if Extension has to continue to be the Agency to take the hit. In the big scheme of the budget, this $24,000 is not a deal breaker to the county. But, to Extension it is huge. I believe the split in the vote to approve the budget backs up my opinion.