Agencies feel county funding cuts

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Staff Writer

The Pike County Extension Office is losing more than $13,000 because of the commission’s decision to cut funding to outside agencies.

"It’s going to kill us," said Tammy Powell, who coordinates programs such as 4-H throughout Pike County. "Losing that money is all of our travel, supplies and postage."

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Not having that money from the county could mean a stop to 4-H Club meetings at each school.

The way she figures, there will be enough to make ends meet until the end of the calendar year, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.

"After the first of the year, we may not continue to go to the schools…unless the Dollar Fairy comes," Powell said.

"They cut some things that are vital to a lot of people in the county. You may not be able to see what we do, as far as a dollar figure, but we touch a lot of lives."

What some may not realize is how much the Extension Office does, Powell said.

When preparing information for the county commission, it was figured 240,165 contacts were made by the office between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2001. If a professional had been hired to provide the same services the Extension Service does, it would have cost over $12 million, Powell said.

"For the $13,000 they give, that’s a pretty big payback," Powell said.

She also said a federal grant for the nutrition program could be in danger because the match funds may not be available.

As part of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, the agency is supposed to get assistance from the federal level, land grant universities and local government.

"We’re supposed to be considered a county entity," Powell said. "That’s what the ‘cooperative’ in our name is supposed to be."

East Central Mental Health-Mental Retardation will be losing $6,000 from the county’s budget.

Don Schofield, executive director of ECMH-MR, said the cuts will not mean any reductions in services, but the money is needed.

"We need that local support," Schofield said. "We’re not going to cut services, but it’s money we could use to do some things we won’t be able to do."

Certain money, like funding from the state, is allocated for certain programs and uses and local allocations are used as supplements.

Tammy Lockley, director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, said cuts made by the county commission are "going to make a drastic change" in her office.

For one thing, not having that $8,000 allocation will mean RSVP will not have match money for a federal grant.

She said going from $8,000 to zero is "a very big change very quickly" and will have a big impact on 500 senior volunteers.

"I’d hate to see the program fold because of the commission’s (lack of financial) support."

Lockley said the commission has promised assistance as the money is available.

"What the commission does later doesn’t help now."

"This is a really bad time for us," said Lockley, who has been with RSVP for 18 years.

In November, RSVP holds a recognition banquet for its volunteers, but that may be canceled this year if fund raising is not successful.

"We’re not sure we can afford to have it," Lockley said of the annual event that costs about $3,000.

"We had already cut because of cuts from the United Way and state money," Lockley said. "The only thing left to cut is personnel.

"It’s a sad situation for our agency," she said, adding all together, cuts come to about $110,000.

Like RSVP, some organizations have been hit twice because the Pike County United Way had to prorate funding to the agencies it supports.

"We had to prorate because dollars haven’t come in from the public," said Jane Thrash, secretary/treasurer for the United Way.

Thrash said the United Way board members are doing what they can to raise money to support the agencies it funds, like the 4-H Clubs, East Central Mental Health-Mental Retardation and RSVP being cut by the county commission.

"The funding has to be there or we’re going to have people hurting," Thrash said of getting people to give to the United Way. "What can you do when there’s no money?"

She sympathizes with the agencies and hopes the United Way can do more to help in the future.

Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce is worried about chamber services that might be cut due to loss of funding.

"We depend on funding from the Pike County Commission," Gaylard said. "We work under contract that provide very important services to the people of Pike County. I don;t think the Pike County Commission can provide those services to citizens.

Gaylard said several years ago the chamber’s funding from the commission was cut in half, but this year’s cuts will put a real strain on the chamber budget.

I regret it since we have had such a good economic development effort this year," Gaylard said.