MSU Extension at risk for funding elimination in Crawford County
Tue, 09/15/2020 - 7:25am caleb
Faced with discouraging budget outlook, county commissioners discuss possible cuts
Kinzie Nena | Staff Writer
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners discussed budget issues and the potential elimination of funding for programs and services including MSU Extension during a meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, September 9, with final decisions expected during a public meeting later this month.
Paul Compo, the Crawford County Administrator, said cuts would be made based on “financial need rather than a tactical decision.”
While the Board of Commissioners agreed that the MSU Extension is valuable to the county and citizens, the current budget struggle leaves a deficit of $800,000 after requests were submitted. The board is required to fund certain programs and mandated services like the Prosecutor’s Office and the county jail.
“As Valuable as MSU is, they are a non-mandated service. Non-mandated services are services not required to be funded by law, unlike the court, Prosecutor's Office or the county jail, which are mandated services. The county budget started, after the requests were submitted, $800,000 in a deficit. That is why the Audit Committee identified and recommended not to fund MSU, so that other potential mandated services could be maintained at their current level.” Compo said.
Historically, MSU Extension has had an active presence in Crawford County for over 100 years, and the loss of such a partnership could mean the loss of programs that focus specifically on the development of youth and communities, promoting positive food health, supporting food growth and agriculture, educating the community about natural resources, and helping local businesses stay strong, according to MSUE officials.
The 2019 Annual Report from MSU Extension listed 703 Crawford County 4-H participants, an approximate $16,109 spent with local businesses with $1,856,814 of total economic impact in Crawford County. The report goes on to list $122,868 of financial aid was disbursed from MSU to Crawford County students.
While much of the MSU Extension is focused on students, they also strive to make a difference in programs that help older adults manage and get education about chronic illness like diabetes and chronic pain. Some of their programs even go towards teaching families how to live healthier with smarter food purchases and nutritious cooking lessons. The full report can be found at the Michigan State University Extension website canr.msu.edu.
“We are committed to being a good and valued partner with Crawford County as we have been for more than 100 years. We want to find a way to work with Crawford County and continue to offer the programs that Crawford County residents are choosing to take part in and to find ways to deliver valuable opportunities to the community for their investment,” said Julia Darnton, the Interim District Director for the MSU Extension. Darnton’s area of coverage includes Alcona, Arenac, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Oscoda, and Roscommon counties.
County officials said it could be put to the Audit Committee to fund the MSU Extension; however, that funding would need to be allocated and funds that are needed for other county services would suffer.
“If the commissioners decided that there was enough support for MSU to remain part of the county budget, they could direct the Audit Committee to fund MSU. Of course, that would mean that the funding would have to come from somewhere and that could also have a negative impact on county services. Another option would be for the county to ask the voters for a millage to fund MSU; however, the next election cycle, I believe, would not occur until 2022, which doesn’t help this year,” Compo said.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 24, at 10 a.m. via Zoom.