SALEM, Ohio – The outlook for the Columbiana County Extension office is improving, but County Director Julie Herron said the fight isn’t over.
Although Herron is confident the office will remain open through the end of 2006, she isn’t so sure what will happen after that.
Due to the failure of a 0.5 percent countywide sales tax in November, county commissioners cut funding to all nonmandated services. The extension office received a zero budget for 2006, so Herron and the volunteer extension advisory committee quickly launched an all-out fundraising drive.
It was an effort that paid off.
Since January, the extension office has received about $20,000 in donations, bringing the office’s total available funds to $70,000.
Almost there. That’s just $6,000 short of the extension advisory committee’s original goal of $76,000.
The rest of the money has come from the 2000 4-H development account, $10 dues from each county 4-H’er and funds remaining from the office’s 2005 budget.
“For this year, we are good, but we are not stopping fundraising efforts because we are looking to the future,” the extension educator said.
Most of the donations came from area service organizations and individuals. Some donations came from within the Columbiana County 4-H program, “but that is just getting off the ground,” said Herron, who is also in charge of 4-H youth development.
Not alone. Columbiana County isn’t fighting the battle alone though. 4-H’ers from other counties have been pitching in, too.
The East Ohio 4-H’ers, a Trumbull County 4-H club, donated $100 from its club treasury. The Geauga County 4-H Junior Leaders donated $1,000.
In 2005, the five-person office operated on a $160,000 budget. Now Herron and Ag Educator Ernie Oelker are the only staff members and the office is operating on a budget of $76,000.
The sales tax that failed in November will be on the ballot again in May. But even if it passes, Herron said extension services won’t see a cent until 2007 because there would be a delay in collection and because mandated services would receive first priority.
Keep going. If the office gets funding from commissioners next year, Herron anticipates it will be less than what is necessary to run the office. So fundraising efforts must continue.
“If we raise more than we really need for 2006, then we’ll have something to start with next year,” she said.
The extension office originally estimated it would have about $40,000 on hand at the beginning of 2006. This included $16,000 from the 4-H development account, about $6,200 from 4-Hers’ $10 dues and county funds left from 2005.
The $40,000 estimate turned out to be a little low, partly because the office began curtailing expenses at the end of 2005 instead of waiting until 2006 and partly because severance costs for two employees were not as high as expected.
“We were about $10,000 better off than we thought we were going to be,” Herron said.
While that was a nice surprise for this year, 2007 won’t hold any such fortune.
“Come 2007, we aren’t going to have anything going into the year,” Herron said. “Our only hope is the sales tax passes and we’re able to supplement what the commissioners appropriate to us.”
Dues. This is the first year Columbiana County 4-H’ers were required to pay $10 dues and it probably isn’t the last.
“I don’t see any way around not charging dues again next year,” Herron said. “It wasn’t something I wanted to do and it wasn’t very popular, but it was necessary.”
If the sales tax passes and the office receives a budget from the county, donations that aren’t used immediately will be put into the 4-H development account, just like the donations from 2000.
“It’s just like a family with a savings account,” Herron said.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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