UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Thankful for the increase to Penn State’s ag programs in the current Pennsylvania budget, Barbara Christ, interim dean of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, says programs are still reeling from a 19 percent cut in state funding in 2011-12.
Christ said the college last year reorganized its academic departments, reducing the number from 12 to nine.
In addition, the college restructured the development and delivery of Penn State Extension programs. That effort created statewide program teams of faculty and county-based educators focused on various agricultural sectors and issues.
The restructuring also maintained an extension presence in every county while shifting administrative services to the district level, which is expected to eliminate duplication and create efficiencies.
Despite these reorganizations, the recent erosion in appropriations, combined with rising costs, has led to recent downsizing, Christ said.
Through layoffs, attrition and retirement incentives, the college’s permanent workforce has shrunk by about 25 percent in the last three years, from more than 800 employees to about 600.
The 3.4 percent increase for the ag college in the 2013-14 state budget will serve mostly to maintain current programs and minimize further downsizing, according to Christ.
“With increasing costs for state pension obligations, health-care premiums and modest salary increases, we still anticipate needing to bridge a nearly $1 million gap in our budget in the coming year,” she said.