OSU Extension and OARDC react to budget cuts


COLUMBUS – Ohio State University’s ag college, OSU Extension and the state’s ag research center are scrambling to make budget cuts for the rest of this fiscal year and for the 2005 fiscal year that starts July 1.

The 4 percent cut Gov. Bob Taft announced March 8 for most state agencies actually has the impact of a 12 percent cut because the state is eight months into its fiscal year.

Extension, OARDC hit. The first round, a 4 percent cash cut, hits OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center during the current fiscal year.

OARDC is looking at an immediate $1.5 million cut; OSU Extension, $1 million.

In July, the money is “restored,” but then a 6 percent cut kicks in for fiscal year 2005.

OARDC will lose $2.1 million; OSU Extension, $1.5 million.

No decisions have been made on what will be cut.

State squeeze. State officials estimate a state revenue shortage of $247.1 million in fiscal year 2004 and $372.7 million in the next fiscal year.

The funds for OSU Extension and the university’s research partner, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, are individual line items in the state budget.

OSU Extension’s budget for FY 04-05 is $25.3 million.

Downsizing. The cuts are the equivalent of 150 positions in OSU Extension and the OARDC, say university officials, and the college overall could downsize by 20 percent over the next two years.

The ag college’s two-year ag technical branch, Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, will also feel the cuts.

The cuts come as the entire university is enacting salary increases only with “internal funds,” meaning if the college wants to boost salaries, all the increases must be “self funded” by the college by shifting money from someplace else.

Ag college hit too. Bob Moser, dean of the College of food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said the cuts will mean a number of positions will be abolished.

He addressed the budget situation April 2 in a satellite broadcast.

Departments must submit plans for implementing broad cuts to Moser by April 15, with final decisions made by early June, Moser said.

Although the ag college’s general fund, which funds on-campus instruction, wasn’t targeted, Moser announced a 6 percent reduction plan for those funds in fiscal year 2005 as well.

Units that don’t generate enough credit hours through student participation may feel heavier cuts.

“It’s not business as usual,” Moser said Friday. “We must face brutal facts.”

The college and its research and extension arms will base allocation on productivity, Moser said, such as courses taught, fees, grants and contracts.

Here we go again. OSU Extension was just starting to recover from the last round of budget cuts.

It implemented a 4 percent reduction for all units in fiscal year 2002.

Since July 2001, state funding dropped 13 percent for both OSU Extension and the OARDC, Moser said.

Early cuts were softened by a “rainy day fund” Extension Director Keith Smith was able to maintain with a conservative fiscal hand.

“That’s eroded now,” Smith said. “We have no wiggle room left.”

The biggest chunk of the budget supports salary and benefits for OSU employees. Employee costs total 80 percent of OSU Extension’s expenditures.

Extension enacted an immediate hiring freeze and restrictions on travel.

There are currently 40 county positions open; 10 district level positions open; and 20-25 positions open at the state level, Smith said.

For OARDC, personnel account for 68 percent of the experiment station’s expenses.

State government provides roughly 42 percent of OSU Extension funding.

OSU Extension restructuring. Last July, OSU Extension trimmed its five regional offices to four as part of a new restructuring plan. Closing the remaining four is one of the options considered for this budget cut, Smith said.

OSU Extension offices are maintained in all 88 counties.

“The county is still our focus,” Smith said.

In the restructuring plan approved in 2003, OSU Extension decided to reduce the number of state- and federally funded district specialists from 25.5 to 18. County agents were told to dedicate 10 percent of their time to broad, statewide issues.

Extension leaders have told the district and county staff that it will take “more drastic measures” to protect the agency from future cuts.

Reorganization. The university’s outreach arm is considering shifting its current four program areas to seven interdisciplinary areas: business and economics; crops and livestock; health and nutrition; homes, families and communities; lawn and garden; natural resources and environment; and 4-H youth development.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!