Proposed cuts could end 4-H, other OSU Extension programs here

Jackson County's funding for the Oregon State University Extension Service is on the chopping block for the next fiscal year, meaning no funding for 4-H or other Extension programs and potential closure of the facility, officials say.

The county's budget committee proposed and approved the $204,204 cut during the county's budget hearings last week, one of several intended to close a $7 million budget gap in the general fund for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

"It will mean the Extension will close. Jackson County Extension will leave the county," said Phil Van Buskirk, OSU Extension administrator for Jackson and Josephine counties. "The support the county gives us is basically our base budget."

It means as many as 31 full- and part-time employees are at risk, Van Buskirk added. Of that pool, six are employed by OSU and could be moved to other Extension offices. Programs like 4-H, the Master Gardener Program, Small Woodland Forestry Program and others would be eliminated in the county.

"I did not expect this to happen at all," Van Buskirk said.

County officials said the OSU Experiment Station could be at risk, too. Though it's funded with state general fund dollars, county officials fear it the state could pull funding when it hears of the local cuts.

"They're kind of joined at the hip if you will," said Board of Commissioners Chairman Don Skundrick. "I hate to see those things go away."

Anne Manlove, the Extension's 4-H director, said 4,000 youth were involved in the program last year. This cut means elimination of the department's after-school and traditional programs.

"It's significant," Manlove said. "It means there's this void in the community training ground (for those) who are stepping into leadership roles."

Several county departments saw cuts for the upcoming budget year. They included Health & Human Services and its social service partners, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Development Services and the libraries.

Additional programs and services that saw cuts outside those departments include the county's communications and marketing contract and its Rogue Valley Television public access broadcast.

In a last-minute move Friday to possibly stop the cuts, Skundrick proposed a housing surcharge of $2 to $10 per month on each home in the county. Those funds would support the Jackson County Jail, thereby freeing up some general fund money for other county entities. County officials are currently researching the possibility of a surcharge, meaning the approved cuts are still technically on hold.

"These cuts are contingent on no new revenues. These aren't certain yet," County Administrator Danny Jordan said.

— Ryan Pfeil

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