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Extension evaluates impact of potential cut in state funding

Saturday, January 31, 2009 | 8:28 p.m. CST; updated 8:27 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — MU Extension officials are calling the potential impact of a $14.6 million cut to their programs “devastating.”

Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon suggested a 50 percent decrease in funding for MU Extension in the proposed budget he submitted to the General Assembly.

According to Rhonda Gibler, assistant vice provost for extension, $14.6 million is equal to the sum of the salaries and benefits for approximately 220 faculty and staff positions. Extension has about 900 full-time positions, Gibler said.

“In an organization that’s primarily people, it’s definitely going to hit hard on faculty and staff,” she said.

Cost-saving measures in other areas would be taken to retain as many faculty and staff as possible if a cut of that size were approved, she said.

Gibler said the suggested cuts would affect all facets of extension, which has programs in agriculture and natural resources, the state’s 4-H program, community and work force development, continuing education and resources for families.

“If we had to take a cut the size that the governor is recommending, there won’t be a part of extension that won’t be touched,” Gibler said.

Extension’s funding formula also complicates matters. The program receives funding from a number of sources including state appropriations, federal funding, grants and contracts.

State appropriations accounted for 29 percent of extension’s FY 2009 budget, but much of the money from federal funding and grants must be matched. If state appropriations were to drop, federal funding and grant money could also drop, Gibler said.

Federal funding, grants and contracts represented 28 percent of extension’s budgeted sources of funding in FY 2009.

Sheldon Toepke, chairman of the Central Missouri Regional Extension Council, said cuts to the extension program would have an impact on county offices across the state.

“It would just devastate the amount of good extension does,” Toepke said.

Smaller counties might suffer most, he said.  If extension faculty and staff were reduced, it could be difficult for the small counties to justify funding to keep the office open.

“It isn’t just the hundreds of jobs that would be lost,” Toepke said. “It’s the thousands of Missourians that wouldn’t get the help and service that these people provide."

Toepke said the state Extension Council is meeting with Chancellor Brady Deaton on Thursday.

At a news conference last Thursday morning, Deaton addressed the potential cut and said he would continue to work with the governor, his staff and the legislature.

“We are concerned about every individual working in extension,” Deaton said.

 


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