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Cooperative Extension Braces for Cuts Across the State

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University Cooperative Extension offices across the state are bracing for budget cuts as county officials figure out how to handle reductions in the wake of the passage of Initiative 695.

“I-695 is affecting nearly all counties and significantly affecting a selected number,” said Mike Tate, associate dean and associate director of Cooperative Extension.

Tate’s office was dealing with a fluid situation today as it attempts to assess calendar 2000 budgets for county offices. Latest figures indicate Grays Harbor County would be hardest hit with a nearly 53 percent cut, from $192,000 to $90,954.

Cooperative Extension has responded by moving its office out of the courthouse, into a portable building at the county fair grounds and is analyzing other moves to cope with reduced funding.

Lewis County extension workers are preparing for a 50 percent cut in county funding. That’s a reduction of about $70,000. Many county offices are expecting single digit cuts and others expect level funding, according to Tate.

WSU Cooperative Extension delivers non-formal educational programs to audiences in every county on agriculture, youth development, water quality, gardening, nutrition education, natural resources, mediation and many other subjects. They include such popular programs as 4-H and Master Gardeners.

Some county funded support personnel have been notified that they will lose their jobs by the end of the year, Tate said. Affected county extension faculty will be transferred to vacant extension positions in other counties.

“What that means is that fewer extension programs will be provided in affected counties, Tate said.

Cooperative Extension receives about 21 percent of its funding from county government. That money is used locally. The rest of extension’s budget comes from state and federal appropriations and grants.

“Cooperative” refers to the cooperative funding arrangement at three levels of government. At the county level, staff are generally paid by the county. Extension faculty are paid by a blend of state, county and federal sources.

“For WSU Cooperative Extension, our partnership with counties is extremely important,” Tate said. “We’re very concerned about the challenges that all the counties face in terms of balancing their budgets. What we’re trying to do is be as prudent and as fair as possible in any of the decisions that we have to make. Where there are shortfalls, there has to be some sort of adjustment in programs and staffing because there’s going to be less money.”

“WSU is committed to quality Cooperative Extension programs and we want to serve the interests and needs of people locally,” Tate said, “but obviously we must do that within the resources we have available to us.

“We’re going to meet the challenge, but we’re trying to do that fairly and we’re trying to do that as humanely as possible given the budget challenges.” “Fortunately, we don’t have any county where we’re seeing closing of extension offices so we’re grateful for that. There’s still enough funding and commitment locally where we can maintain an office.”

“Our county councils and county officials have been extremely supportive of us. Our clientele have also been extremely supportive of Cooperative Extension programs. I recognize that these are very difficult times for those who have to make decisions, but I do want to recognize that there is tremendous local support for WSU Cooperative Extension.”

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