Virginia Cooperative Extension Reorganization Presented At Highland Supervisors Meeting
Monterey, VA – At their special work session on Tuesday evening this week the Highland County Board of Supervisors listened to a report from Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Rodney Leech on the Cooperative Extension reorganization. Specific plans have not been completed on what will happen with the Highland County office.
Budget cuts to state agencies over the past 3 years have reduced the Cooperative Extension budget to the point that it will have to eliminate funding for some staff positions across the state. Mr. Leech begins by describing the proposed statewide changes. Leech says the state is consolidating the current 106 offices down to 22 business centers with a more regional approach, aligned with the planning districts.
The Highland County office of the Extension is expected to continue to serve county residents. However, there may be increased costs to the county to continue the current staffing and level of service. The Cooperative Extension reorganization plan proposes to develop 22 statewide business centers. State support for staff in county offices will be reduced. The nearest extension business center to Highland County will probably be located in Augusta County.
“There is an opportunity for a local presence still,” says Leech “I assume at a cost. They’re looking at funding one agent per locality on a cooperative basis like we’ve done with agents in the past. The biggest difference I can see is that if you’re not one of those business centers, support staff will be eliminated.”
Some localities are picking up more of their local extension office costs to offset the state reductions. Funding for extension offices comes from federal, state and county funds. It is the state part of this funding that has been especially hard hit by the recession over the past few years.
The Cooperative Extension office plays a very important role in the county by bringing research-based information on livestock management, invasive plant control, insect and weed identification, as well as soil improvement to county residents. Supervisor David Blanchard expresses the Board sentiments on the importance of the county extension office.
“Being an agricultural community and having that presence for both those who are working a farm and the education of the youth is just vital up here” he says.
In other business, the supervisors encouraged County Administrator Roberta Lambert to see that the letters from the Zoning Office go out soon to some residents on Airport Terrace Road regarding zoning issues. Board members admitted that it would be a good idea to review the zoning regulations in the near future. The Supervisors also plan to hold a work session with the School Board in November to look at school budget matters.
The next regular meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2 at 7:30 PM in Monterey.