Steamboat Springs Colorado's budget woes may deal Routt County yet another blow.
Cooperative Extension offices, the state's local arm of support for ranchers, youth and families, are next in line to feel the fiscal crunch.
As many as 19 extension agents could lose their jobs this summer, C.J. Mucklow, director of the Routt County Extension Office, said Tuesday. Extension agents assist landowners with conservation efforts and ranching, oversee 4-H and after-school activities, and educate communities about drought, disease and health issues.
Mucklow is optimistic that he and his staff members will hold on to their positions. He is more concerned about the unforeseen impacts of terminating so many field staffers.
Colorado State University's Cooperative Extension, which funds local extension offices, faces a $1.5 to $2 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.
The university initially trimmed $800,000; eliminating extension agents will help to slash another $700,000 to $1.2 million.
"It slowly but surely escalated," Mucklow said.
But more reductions are not out of the question.
"As more budget information becomes available, more cuts may be necessary," regional director Milan Rewerts said.
Rewerts asked county officials for help in prioritizing which CSU programs should continue in local communities and which programs should go.
Mucklow and the advisory board that oversees the Routt County Extension Office shared their concerns about pending cuts with the Routt County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday.
"At some point, when you start to reduce the amount of field people, you start reducing the effectiveness of the program," advisory board member Carl Herold said.
Ron Normann agreed that extension agents are key to the success of CSU programs and shouldn't go.
"If we don't have the field people, what good is (the Cooperative) Extension?" he asked.
The county commissioners urged Mucklow to write a letter in support of extension agents and their critical role in agricultural areas of the state. Cuts should come from other areas of the program, they said.
"The focus should be on the rural communities," Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
The advisory board mulled the idea of the County Extension Office charging people for certain services in light of future cuts.
"It's taking the business sense to extension services," Tammie Delaney said.
Fees won't happen tomorrow, but it's something the advisory board and the county commissioners agreed merited a closer look.