OSU Extension reaches out to voters, but offices may still be closing

SALEM, Ohio — Two Ohio counties had levies passed ensuring continuation of the 4-H program in those counties. Two other counties were not so lucky.

Levies were placed before voters in Carroll, Coshocton, Vinton and Jackson counties regarding funding for the county OSU Extension offices. OSU Extension oversees the state’s and local 4-H youth and development programs.

4-H program

Dr. Keith Smith, OSU Extension director, said nine OSU Extension county offices and programs are now funded through property tax levies.

The counties include: Morgan, Monroe, Noble, Vinton (renewed), Harrison, Hardin, Morrow, Van Wert and Coshocton.

Another county not receiving appropriations from the county commissioners, Paulding County, is currently funded with money from local businesses and individuals.

“We want 4-H in every county and we are willing to work to make sure every county has 4-H,” Smith said.

Smith said this isn’t the first time 4-H programs and extension offices have struggled for funding, but there are more funding dilemmas because of the state of the economy in general.

Two failed

Voters in Jackson and Carroll counties failed to pass the levies. The unofficial results, according to the Jackson County Board of Elections, show the five-year, 0.25 mill levy there was defeated 3,853 to 3,514.

In Carroll County, voters defeated a 0.25 mill levy for five years. Unofficial vote totals were 5,071 to 4,812. Without the levy, the 4-H program will not exist in 2011.

For an update on what plans may include in Carroll County, click here.

Jackson County OSU Educator Erin Dailey, said the office is slated to close Dec. 31, meaning an end to 4-H there unless other funding is found.

“At this point, our options are running low. After three times at the polls, it just doesn’t seem like a tax levy is the way to go,” Dailey said.

She added she has already been in meetings trying to find a long-term solution to the funding problem.

Carroll County

The Carroll County tax levy would have brought in an estimated $135,000 each year of its five-year cycle, costing the owner of a $100,000 slightly more than $7 a year.

It would have provided local matching funds to go along with state and federal money that supports the Ohio State University Extension programs in the county. Without the local funds, Carroll County officials cannot leverage state and federal money.

OSU Extension Director Smith confirmed that, unless other funding sources are found, 4-H will end in both Jackson and Carroll counties and the youth there will not be able to participate in adjoining counties.

“You can’t do that because it’s not fair to counties that do provide support and funding for 4-H,” Smith said.

Smith explained OSU Extension was designed to be a cooperative effort between state and local governments and that is why the levies are so badly needed. Without local matching funds, there are no state funds to be added.

Two passed

In Coshocton and Vinton counties, voters approved the levies.

Coshocton County residents approved a 0.4 mill levy for five years with a vote of 6,914 to 5,212.

Rhoda Brown, treasurer for the 4-H advisory committee, said they are delighted the levy was passed by voters in Coshocton County, and believes it is good for the community.

“The 4-H program is beneficial to children so they can learn life skills and, with Coshocton County being such a large agriculture area, we are elated to have an agricultural specialist in the county.

“We are thankful for the voters and we greatly appreciate the in-kind support from the county commissioners by giving us space to house the office and Internet needed,” Brown said.

She added that she and the rest of the committee realize how lucky the county is to have passed the levy so programming can continue.

“It’s one of those things. You have to have it. Those that didn’t pass the levy won’t realize what they lost until its gone,” Brown said.

Vinton County voters also showed support for the county extension program by approving a 0.75 mill renewal for five years. It passed with 2,484 voting for the levy and 1,824 voting against it.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

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