State Extension facing cuts | SteamboatToday.com

State Extension facing cuts

Routt County offices not likely to be directly affected

Susan Cunningham

The Colorado State Cooperative Extension Office is facing further budget cuts at the state level this year, but the cuts likely won’t impact Routt County directly.

Even so, the county is discussing ways, such as generating funds through user fees, to deal with future cuts, Routt County Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said.

Routt County does not want to see extension offices forced to act regionally to cover more counties, Mucklow said.

About 70 percent of the county’s extension office funding comes from the county, which designated $204,000 this year for the organization. The remaining funds come from the state and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Routt County has funded its extension services at a higher level than what most other counties provide, which is a big benefit to the program, Mucklow said.

Last year, the state had to cut 33 full-time equivalents, or 11 positions, because of an 18 percent reduction in state funding, said Milan Rewerts, the state director of Cooperative Extension. The cuts affected 26 counties directly, he said.

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This year, it looks as if another 1 percent to 2 percent will be cut, which is “small change” comparatively, Rewerts said.

But if future budget predictions that state funds could decrease by 20 percent every year prove correct, the Cooperative Extension could face additional cuts and fundamental changes, Rewerts said.

“We struggle to deliver the needs of a very diverse state,” he said.

With further cuts, Cooperative Extension would have to reduce the educational services it offers or find other funding sources, he said.

Already, the state service has imposed 4-H membership fees to help fund and maintain the youth program. The organization also will study and implement a more aggressive user-fee approach this summer, but it wants to be careful to ensure that all services remain available to all people, even those who cannot pay the fees, Rewerts said.

On Tuesday, Rewerts and Mucklow attended a spring meeting in Glenwood Springs for the Western Regional extension personnel. Budget concerns were one focus of the meeting.

In related business, Routt County commissioners reappointed six members of the Routt County Extension Advisory Committee, which was created two years ago. The members’ two-year terms had come to an end, but all said they were willing to serve another term.

The reappointed members are: Carl Herold, Cindy Gantick, Karen Vail, Susan Rossi, Ron Normann and Sandy Fisher.

The group meets with the county extension office to make recommendations and evaluate the office’s accomplishments, Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com