State, local budget crunches forcing Extension offices to go to voters

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COSHOCTON, Ohio — You would have to be living under a rock not to know the entire country is facing tough economic times. Those tight purse strings have trickled down to county Extension offices across the Buckeye State.

Levies needed

This fall, five counties are asking for a levy to specifically fund the Ohio State University Extension office in their county.

Hardin, Paulding, Jackson and Coshocton counties are going to the voters for help for the first time. Monroe County is asking for a renewal levy.

In addition, three counties are asking for a general tax levy on the November ballot, which, if passed, would provide support to the county extension offices located in Hancock, Van Wert and Allen counties. These three levies would provide funding to the county as a whole, ultimately benefiting the extension offices, too.

Coshocton County

Voters in Coshocton County are being asked to pass a 0.6-mill, five-year levy on the November ballot.

The levy would generate approximately $387,786 a year. However, not all of that can be collected, due to delinquent taxes and a 2.2 percent collection fee charged by the Coshocton County Auditor’s office. This means the Coshocton County Extension office would receive approximately $340,477 a year if the levy is passed.

The money raised will help restore the extension service to five days a week, improve programming, and hire an agricultural extension educator for the county.

“We may not have funding for next year. The commissioners have said there may be no funding and they won’t know until December, which will make it too late to do anything. So that is why we need this levy,” said Sarah Jane Lindsey, Coshocton county extension director.

Budget cuts

The OSU Extension Coshocton County’s budget was cut $58,950 this year by the county commissioners due to a shortfall in the county budget. In 2009, the budget was cut to $209,200 by the county commissioners.

If passed by voters, the levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home, $18.38 a year.

The funds generated from the levy will not go into the county commissioner’s general fund. All the funds collected by the levy must be used only by the OSU Extension Coshocton County office.

4-H program

If the levy does not pass, there may not be a 4-H program in Coshocton County, according to Lindsey.

Ohio 4-H rules state youth members are to participate in their county of residence.If there is no extension office in the county, then 4-H members would not be allowed to join 4-H in another adjoining county.

Coshocton County will still have a fair if the budget is cut for the OSU Extension office, since the Coshocton County Agricultural Society and extension office are separate entities and are funded separately. Youth in the county would still be able to show at the fair, but they would have to join one of the other junior fair organizations if 4-H is no longer offered in Coshocton County.

Other programs supported by the levy would include: agriculture and natural resources, community development and family consumer sciences.

Current levies

Five counties are currently being funded by levies. Vinton, Noble, Morgan, Harrison and Monroe 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

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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