University Extension Service looks to find additional revenue sources for operation of Wright Co. office - Mountain Grove News-Journal : News

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University Extension Service looks to find additional revenue sources for operation of Wright Co. office

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Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 3:47 pm

The University of Missouri Extension Service in Wright County may soon need to scramble  to find some additional revenue to operate the Wright County office  at its current level.

The Wright County Extension Service needs just over $30,000 in revenue to cover office expenses annually. The primary source of these funds has been an appropriation from Wright County. In 2013, Wright County budgeted a contribution of $26,800, but this level of funding may be threatened if the county continues to find itself facing its own budget crunch. The county currently funds the Extension office with a formula related to revenue.

Wright County Presiding Commissioner Zach Williams stated that a determining factor in the funding for the Extension Service is the county’s own finances. At the six month point in its year the county was down approximately $25,000 in sales tax. It currently is down $16,000. Williams also pointed out that the county knows it will have additional costs next year including the additional costs of an election year.

Williams stated that the Commission has tried to keep the Extension Service informed of any potential changes in county funding.

State statutes require that maintaining a county Extension office is a cooperative effort between the state and counties. The statute requires the counties to provide the Extension Service $10,000 annually. The statute setting the amount was approved in the 1960s.

The county’s contribution may have to fall to the mandated level if its finances continue to fall, Williams stated.

Wright County Extension Service County Program Director Ted Probert stated that the county has a history of supporting the Extension Service, but that they are facing their own financial concerns.

The county provided the Extension Service $31,000 annually during both 2008 and 2009. The county’s contribution was $27,540 in 2010 and $20,000 in 2011 and 2012. Williams explained that the county tried to increase the 2013 appropriation because the Extension Service had taken a lower appropriation last year to help the county out with the extra expenses of an election year.

The county uses a formula for the 2013 year which reduces the county’s contribution to the Extension Service if the county goes two months in a row down $5,000 in revenues. If this happens the Extension Service would receive only  the monthly rate if the annual contribution were $10,000. Probert stated that this has happened only one month this year.

Along with the county appropriation, the Extension office receives some funding from donations and services provided including classes, soil tests and publication sales. In 2012 the Extension Service had revenues totaling $26,937 including a $20,000 contribution from the county. The cost of publications for resale and soil test expenses totaled $4,245.

The Extension Service has been using reserves to help fund operations, but at the current rate these funds will be nearly exhausted by the end of the year, Probert stated. The Extension Service will have to increase the push to make some money from classes to help with increasing revenues, Probert stated. He indicated in 2012 they put out an appeal for financial gifts and received approximately $2,400.  In 2013 they have received approximately $1,400 so far.

Williams stated that there are still several months left in this budget year so it is still unknown at what level the county could help fund the Extension office.

The local county provides office space, funds for office expenses, clerical salaries and travel expenses of extension specialists who conduct educational programs. The University of Missouri provides salaries and benefits for one professional and two para-professional staff located in the county. The university also provides in-service training expenses including travel and lodging for staff, postage for staff communications and computer equipment and maintenance.

In 2012 the University of Missouri provided the Extension program with support valued at $152,794.

The Extension Service has cut its office hours to four days per week to assist with its financial condition. Probert stated that the University has concerns with the cut to four days per week because of its own financial investment.

He indicated that there have been discussions, primarily with Douglas County, about pooling resources, but there has been some resistance to this approach. The University could pull professional personnel out and move them to other locations if local funding were to drop to a level that doesn’t cover office expenses, Probert stated. The University feels that it needs a certain amount of local financial support to justify their investment, Probert said.

Wright County recently missed out on an opportunity to have a 4-H Youth Specialist based in Wright County. Probert explained that the University doesn’t want to put a new person here and then have the county office experience financial difficulties. This position is slated to go to Texas County.

Probert explained that his title is dairy specialist but he does considerable beef, forage and agronomy work. Beyond the specialist, this is typical among extension personnel to help serve the needs of the clientele.

There have been some recent administrative changes in the operation of University Extension.

In a release it was indicated that the University of Missouri Extension realigned its administrative structure to focus on high-priority local programs, adjust to uncertain public funding, generate diverse revenue streams and remain responsive to changes in demands for educational programs and services.

“Changes in the economic development needs of Missouri, population demographics, societal changes and funding constraints call for new models for allocating funds and staffing,” said Michael Ouarat, vice provost and director. “MU Extension’s previous staffing plan of 2007 was based on economic and social factors that are now outdated.”

On January 1, 2013, MU Extension moved to a total resource model for regional programs. Rather than budgeting for a specific number of positions, extension regions are allocated funds to carry out the highest-priority programs for the area. Priorities are driven by local need and demand as well as campus-based analysis of the greatest impact items coming from research. The total resource model is similar to how colleges are funded for extension work on the MU campus and includes general operating allocation from state and federal governments, contracts, grants, endowments and fees generated from programs.

“The focus will be on program impact, not the position,” said Ouart. “Decisions about where to invest in positions will be based on citizens greatest opportunities and needs and MU Extension’s available resources to fill those needs.”

In an outline of the history of MU Extension it was explained that University of Missouri Extension has its roots in the federal acts that enabled the university to deliver the practical benefits of education and scientific research to the people to improve their economic prospects and quality of life.

The Morrill Act of 1862 established the University of Missouri as a land-grant university. The act gave grants of land to states with the provision that proceeds from the sale of those lands be used to establish public colleges or universities to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts and other practical professions. The Morrill Act of 1890, which established Lincoln University, provided additional funds to ensure that the land grants were open to all citizens without regard to race.

In 1887, the Hatch Act established agricultural experiment stations at land-grant universities. The University of Missouri currently conducts research to aid agricultural producers and to ensure a safe food supply at 15 research farms and centers.

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service, a partnership among federal, state and county governments allowing universities to extend their programs to all people-not just students.

Initially, the extension program concentrated on working with farmers and their families, which comprised the majority of the nation’s population, to improve their quality of life and standard of living. Extension workers demonstrated how to produce more and better varieties of agricultural commodities; how to benefit from better nutrition, clothing and housing; and how to work together to bring about major improvements, such as electric cooperatives.

As the population shifted to the cities, Missouri’s extension program expanded to include programs for urban populations. Currently, those include after-school youth leadership programs in federal housing developments, food and nutrition education for limited-resource populations and labor education delivered through interactive television.

In 1927, 4-H became a part of cooperative extension.

In 1955, state legislation required counties to establish county extension councils to advise the University of Missouri on educational programs.