Mixed results from OSU Extension levies

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WOOSTER, Ohio — The future of Ohio State University Extension in at least three Ohio counties could change significantly or be eliminated following levy failures on Nov. 3.

Paulding, Jackson and Coshocton counties each went to their voters for operating funds for the Extension service and were denied.

Paulding County

In Paulding County, a .67 mill levy was defeated by a vote of 4,009 to 2,340.

County Director Jim Lopshire said the Extension office was able to remain open this year because of an anonymous donor. However, funding from the commissioners has stopped and he’s concerned whether there will be any funding for next year.

“We’re going to have to find funding somewhere in order to remain open in 2010 and beyond,” he said.

“Without an Extension program in our county, our youth can’t participate in 4-H or 4-H camp.”

Coshocton County

Coshocton County faces similar challenges, where a .6 mill levy failed 6,163 to 4,720.

“At this point, we will have to meet with the county commissioners and OSU Extension administration to determine what the outcome (will be),” said County Director Sarah Jane Lindsey.

“The commissioners had told us they did not know what funds, if any, they would have for 2010.”

Lindsey said her county was hopeful new funds could help it overcome the nearly $60,000 in cuts it experienced this year, restore hours for personnel and hire an agriculture educator.

Although disappointed, she expressed appreciation for the work of the levy committee and said some 4-H exhibitors even donated money at the fair to support the levy.

“We had many, many people work, adults and youth,” she said.

Jackson County

In Jackson County, a .5 mill levy was voted down 4,656 to 4,258.

Extension officials said they appreciated the closeness of the vote, with only 378 votes from approval, but are concerned for their program’s future.

“We’ve been operating on an extremely reduced budget for the last four years,” said County Director Erin Dailey.

The county saw a 67 percent budget cut in 2005, which has significantly impacted its staffing. Currently, the office is only staffed by its director, and a program assistant, whose pay does not come from the county.

What’s next?

Most of the counties where levies failed said they would meet with staff and commissioners, to explore their options for staying open and to decide what services they can afford to offer.

Hardin County

Hardin County was the only county to approve a new levy, a .4 mill levy that received nearly 60 percent of votes in favor.

“It was more than a squeaker, and right from the get-go,” said Linda Ferguson, support staff with the county office.

Ferguson expects the levy will generate a little more than $180,000, from which deductions will be made for county collections fees. However, it should still be enough to keep the office and its diversified programming open, she said.

“It really feels good to be supported by the public in this way and realize that they value what we do here,” said County Director Gene McCluer. “It looks like our 4-H program is going to continue on and they will be able to maintain all of the 4-H activities they’ve come to love and enjoy.”

Monroe County

In Monroe County, voters approved a renewal levy with 2,613 votes in favor, and 1,980 against.

That’s good for an approval of about 57 percent, the highest percentage by which an Extension levy has been approved, said County Director Bruce Zimmer.

The renewal will help keep the county’s Extension running through December of 2015.

Current levies

Four counties are currently being funded by levies. Vinton, Noble, Morgan, and Harrison all receive money generated from property tax levies.

Morrow County’s extension
office is to begin receiving funding Jan. 1, 2010, from a levy passed in May.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

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