Supporters organize to pass Harrison County levy

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CADIZ, Ohio – The idea that there might not be 4-H in Harrison County has struck fear into the hearts of loyal supporters who are jumping on the bandwagon to help pass a county tax levy to support the Harrison County office of OSU Extension.

Scott Pendleton, chair of the new tax levy campaign committee, however, emphasized to those who turned out at a Jan. 23 meeting that there is more to extension than just 4-H.

Pendleton said the county extension ag program has not been as visible in recent years, but a dedicated tax levy would provide stable funding to add an ag program assistant, which would go a long way toward correcting that.

Pressing the case for how important extension is in a rural county like Harrison, Pendleton, a Cadiz veterinarian, emphasized how often he uses the services of the OSU veterinarians available through extension.

Benefit to community. The office does a lot of other things in the community, Pendleton added.

This year, the office offered a timber management field day for private landowners, and joined a new four-county grazing council to give livestock producers more access to education and information, and sponsored two grazing twilight tours.

It offers Livestock Environmental Assurance Program certification sessions, and pesticide recertification clinics and participates in the Carroll County Country Living Field Day.

A grant funds a half-time family and consumer sciences agent, who has coordinated parenting classes for more than 500 parents in the current year, and has participated in a parenting classes for incarcerated fathers at the Eastern Ohio Correctional Center.

Focus on 4-H. It is 4-H, however, that is the largest program in the Harrison County Extension Office and the program that created the most concern for those who attended the Jan. 23 meeting.

The Harrison County 4-H Committee has already donated $1,000 of the $1,500 needed to run the levy campaign.

The more than 400 youth involved in traditional community 4-H clubs is down slightly over the last few years, but as a percentage of youth in the county, it is higher than it was in the early ’90s, said extension agent Jayne Keyser. Pendleton estimates that more than 20 percent of eligible Harrison County youth are involved in 4-H.

And Harrison County has retained more youth in 4-H than have any of the surrounding counties, Keyser said.

County budget. Pendleton told residents that Harrison County’s general fund, out of which the county extension office is funded, comes primarily from sales tax and interest income on county funds. Only 5 percent of the county’s property tax goes into the general fund.

The primary source of sales tax is generated by the sale of cars that Harrison County residents buy outside of the county, Pendleton said. The amount has been decreasing in recent years, and in 2002 will be down another $40,000.

Of the estimated $2.7 million that will be generated into the general fund for 2002, Pendleton said, $1.7 goes to county payroll and benefits. Another $200,000 is mandated for the Sargus Juvenile Detention Center in St. Clairsville.

Only $100,000 of the budget is allocated to nonmandated programs, and for 2002 $76,000 of that is budgeted for extension.

Keep program alive. Commissioner Craig Corder said the commission worked hard to find the money to keep the extension program at level funding for 2002.

“When we started looking for the $200,000 that had to be cut, we kept finding other places to cut so that we could keep this program alive for this year,” Corder said. “We cut a judge, and the sheriff took a cut. Even the prosecutor helped out.

“But I don’t think we could do it again next year.”

“Of all the programs I don’t want to cut,” said Corder, “this is the one that I would like to keep funding the most. I would rather spend our money supporting a program that is positive for kids than spend $200,000 on kids who are not behaving and have to be placed in jail. But that money is system mandated.”

A property tax mill levy of .75 would generate about $143,000 in 2003 that would be dedicated to funding the extension office, and could not be used for any other purpose, Pendleton said.

Proposed budget. The extension advisory committee has adopted a projected budget of $135,000 for 2003, if a levy passes.

That amount would add a full-time program assistant whose time would be divided between ag programs and 4-H. There would also be a small increase in the area of secretarial support and offices expenses.

The budget drawn up for 2002 was $112,772, of which $28,053 is a grant to pay a program assistant who runs the nutrition program.

Levy costs. The tax levy would mean an increased property tax of about $4.73 per $20,000 in appraised value on residential property, Pendleton said.

For agricultural property, he said, the average tax value of farmland in Harrison County is $125 per acre. At that appraised value, under agricultural use value, the extension levy would amount to $2.92 per 100 acres. If the appraised value were $200 per acre, the levy would be $4.73 per 100 acres.

On land that does not have an agricultural use assessment, the value and the levy would be about double.

Pendleton said this amount will not change during the five-year life of the levy even if land values should increase.

(You can contact Jackie Cummins at 800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at jcummins@farmanddairy.com.)

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