Letter to editor: Oppose cuts in Extension funding

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic

    The Illinois Senate has a proposal before them to zero out the County Board match and Cook County Initiative.  Needless to say, that would be devastating to our programs. 

     We have learned that the 2012 appropriation bill being considered by the Illinois Senate would eliminate two of the line items for Extension that are contained in the Department of Ag budget, those being County Board match and the Cook County Initiative.  The only portion of the Extension allocation to remain in the Senate bill was for Youth Development. 

     Were the FY12 Senate bill to be enacted, Extension would lose $13.7 million.  That is on top of $7.6 million that was lost in FY11 from all public sources of funding.  Last year’s loss represents a 25 percent reduction in line items for Extension contained in the Department of Ag budget.  The reduction proposed for FY12 represents an additional 92 percent cut in those funds.  In FY11, Extension funds contained in Department of Ag budget represented 60 percent of all state funds provided to Extension.

     The FY11 loss of funding resulted in a reduction in number of Units from 76 to 27 with an associated loss of 120 academic professional positions from the field staff.  Cuts of the magnitude proposed for FY12 would likely eliminate many of the Educators, reduce office numbers to one per cluster, and drastically reduce the program support staff in each Unit. 

    The impact of such cuts could include:

    • Loss of unit office locations which will reduce accessibility to extension programs

    • Loss of field staff.  A total of 120 academic positions were lost from the system during the reorganization program of 2010-2011.  Further budget reductions will result in more loss of expertise at the field level.  All programs, including 4-H and Master Gardener will be impacted. 

    Residents are highly encouraged to visit or call your representative and senator and tell them how much you value Extension.   

    Thanks in advance for your support!

Tony Franklin, County Director, University of Illinois Extension, Milan