In the Commissioners’ office, we hear complaints daily about this or
that government office. We also hear complaints daily from this or that
government office. If you are looking for a job where you are constantly
bombarded with praise and good news, this ain’t it.
One of the
few government-sponsored programs – maybe the only one – with virtually
universal support is 4-H. (And by saying that, I am guaranteed messages
on my phone by Tuesday telling me what’s horrible about 4-H.)
is Ohio State Extension’s premier program. Largely identified by its
livestock shows, it also promotes youth studies in computers, cooking,
public speaking - something for just about everyone who wants to be
involved in learning outside the classroom.
OSU Extension promotes
our local 4-H through its agricultural offices out at the Fairgrounds.
This office is taxpayer supported through a levy that generates about
$200,000 annually. Extension’s economic development office has separate
Extension recently approached us about putting this levy
on the ballot for renewal – it is up at the end of next year. County
Commissioners, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code, have to approve the levy
before it can be voted up or down by the electorate, meaning we have the
only opportunity to request specific changes. You will get a simple yes
or no option in the voting booth.
Outside of 4-H, there are other
Extension programs supported by this levy. Before putting it up for
renewal, we have some questions about the programs that aren’t 4-H.
fellow Commissioners are from the agricultural community. They polled a
small sampling of people only to discover what we already suspected -
that Extension’s role as disseminator of information to the farming
community has diminished with the rise of technology. The role of the
Extension Agent has been largely replaced by Google and various local
reps from within the ag industry.
4-H is still viewed as the
indispensable Extension program. With this in mind, we have requested
that the levy be redesigned to strengthen 4-H locally and perhaps cut
unnecessary programs. It is also a concern that since we finance
Extension more than our neighbors, that Van Wert County taxpayers are
being burdened with providing services to the entire region while other
If there is a perceived need for other Extension
programs besides 4-H, we haven’t heard it yet – feel free to contact us.
As of now, it’s our inclination to request that the 4-H program be more
heavily funded and the others less so. Much less so, perhaps.
we were to put the same levy up for renewal, that would be handing
$200,000 to OSU Extension to spend as it sees fit. It has been a focus
of our office to make sure that if an outside agency is receiving local
funding it has accountability to local taxpayers. Common sense, you say?
That simple premise has led to exhaustive objection.
But we are
at a point where we can turn a corner with Extension generally. A new
regional director started last month, Cynthia Torppa. In our few
communications with her, she seems committed to tailor all branches of
OSU Extension to the needs of our community. This is in contrast of the
past regional director who seemed determined to tailor all our needs to
fit the goals of Extension.
A key to good fiscal conservatism is
cutting unnecessary programs when you don’t have to. The levy as is
doesn’t cost the individual taxpayer a big pile of cash, but it costs
the county as a whole one such pile. If the levy is halved, $100,000 is
immediately put back into the hands of Van Wert County taxpayers. If we
can work with Extension on such a levy that still strengthens 4-H, then
that’s what we intend to give to voters instead of a mindless renewal.