By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY March 19, 2013 Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) plans to make a plea Thursday to legislators, asking the county to reverse a 20 percent cut in the nonprofit’s 2013 funding a cut its board leader said could be “fatal” to future programs.
The $83,000 loss from the $415,000 contract with the county, coupled with a $33,000 reduction in federal funding, has created “a severe cash flow problem,” according to a March 8 letter sent to Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson by CCE Board Chair Joan Howard.
Samuelson had requested all agencies facing cuts to inform the Legislature of the particular impacts of the reductions. Only CCE responded, he said.
In response, Howard wrote that three demonstration projects for maple syrup production, a commercial kitchen and grass pelletization would have to be postponed, renovations at the Liberty office would need to be delayed, and reduced staff hours or even layoffs would have to be implemented.
In addition to a new executive director, CCE has just brought on an agricultural issue leader and a livestock educator.
“For the record, you should know that the proposed cut in funding approximates the salaries of these two agricultural specialists, which the county states is one of its highest economic development priorities,” Howard wrote.
A 4-H expansion may also be “devastated” by the cut, she stated.
“The decision to cut the funds without any discussion has not only brought into question our financial health but indicates the need to improve communication especially since we had already adopted our 2013 budget with suggested cuts of two percent or five percent, as requested by the Government Services Committee,” Howard added. “It is our hope that a full-time executive director who can communicate regularly with the Legislature, county departments and agencies and a proactive legislative representative on our board (as required by law and our constitution) will help facilitate future communication.”
CCE is approaching its centennial year with a desire to remain one of the county’s oldest agency partners. The execution of the 2013 contract is expected to come up for a vote this Thursday.
“We recognize that as the county, state and federal governments struggle with fiscal challenges there may be adjustments in our funding levels,” she stated. “However, the level of funding from the county should be dependent upon what we bring to the table and our ability to be part of the county’s leadership team.”
Whether or not CCE will succeed in its request, however, is uncertain, as it’s not the only agency which suffered cuts under the county’s 2013 budget.
“I think it’s going to be a tough call,” admitted Samuelson yesterday, wishing the county had enough money to fund all the agencies in need. “We just have to do the best we can.”
The presentation will be made this Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the Government Center in Monticello. The Executive Committee meeting is open to the public.