Big cuts coming if governor doesn’t release Extension monies

Because it has a little surplus built up, the Fayette and Clay counties unit of University of Illinois Extension believes it can make it through to the end of the current fiscal year without much of a problem.

But beyond that, the local Extension unit and all other units in the state is looking at some substantial cuts if Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich continues withholding funds that have already been appropriated for Extension.

All Extension units learned on April 1 three-quarters of the way into the current fiscal year that funds allocated by the Illinois General Assembly for fiscal year 2008 were not being released.

That translates into about $98,000 for the Fayette/Clay Unit, and about $40,000 for Fayette County alone, according to Ginger Boas, county Extension director for the local unit.

Thats a huge amount of money for us, she said.

Were lucky in that we have a little bit of reserve, Boas said. But that will help us only until the end of this fiscal year (June 30).

At this point, the local unit has made only minor cuts, in areas such as extra mileage and supplies, Boas said.

Right now, we havent totally cut a program but that will come if the funds arent released, she said.

Seventy-five percent of our budget is for staff, and if we dont get the funding, we will have to make some tough decisions, she said. We are trying to do some things with other counties, but theres only so much we can do.

Statewide, Extension is looking at the loss of 450 positions. Were not talking about just administrative positions, Boas said.

That includes secretaries and community workers, the people who play very important roles in the operation of our facilities and our programs, she said.

By state law, Extension receives a match based on the amount of money generated locally. That local match includes fundraising activities.

We do depend on fundraisers, and there is going to have to be more of that, Boas said.

An example is the barbecue that will be held from 4-6:30 p.m. this Friday on the parking lot of the Vandalia Eagles Club, just south of the Fayette County Extension office. At the fundraiser, Extension will be accepting donations for pork burgers and pork chops.

Its about two months before one of the big Extension programs, the 4-H Show, and Boas said it appears that show will go off as planned.

It looks like we are barely going to get the fair (4-H Show) in, she said.

The local office has traditionally sent out letters to area businesses at this time of year in which they ask for financial assistance. Donations received for that the 4-H Show are used for such things as judges and trophies.

Those letters are going out now, with increased emphasis on the need for local assistance, Boas said.

A lot of businesses have always stepped up to help us out, and thats the kind of thing we will be needing without the appropriated money that has been promised to us, she said.

Another program offered locally through the Extension unit is Vandalias Little Community Garden.

Now that weve got that program going really strong, we want to keep it going, Boas said. Thats another example of where we will need support from the community in the form of volunteers and donations.

While the University of Illinois lobbies to get it appropriated funds from Blagojevich, it has some strong allies, Boas said.

All of our local legislators are on board with us, and weve got support from the legislators statewide, she said.

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