Several county programs get six-month budget reprieve

Several Jackson County programs whose general fund support was partially slated for the chopping block will instead receive funding for six months, following approval of the 2013-14 budget by the county's Board of Commissioners.

The programs, including the Oregon State University Extension and Experiment Station, public health and veterans services, will receive county funds for six months. If additional revenue sources have not been found to fund them for the full fiscal year and beyond, the final six months of funding will be cut. (Clarification: See below).

"We'll fund these folks for half the number," said Commissioner Chair Don Skundrick.

If that additional money is found, they programs will receive a full year of funding. General fund cuts to the county's libraries, development services, human services agencies and Sheriff's Department will still go into effect. That likely means cuts to library hours, fewer deputies on the road and reduced funding for social service partners such as Court Appointed Special Advocates and Senior and Disability Services.

But if new dollars are found, those programs would get their funding restored, too.

The cuts were part of an effort to close a $6.7 million budget gap. Of that, about $5.3 million will be filled with county rainy day funds. The county's budget committee convened in April to figure out what to do with the remaining $1.4 million, where the additional cuts to programs were proposed by budget committee members.

Numerous supporters of the Extension Service program spoke out against the proposed cut during a public hearing today, including administrative staff, volunteers, and program participants. They packed Jackson County's Courthouse Auditorium, to the point where there was standing room only at some points of the meeting.

Some spoke of the facility's economic benefit to the county's wine and pear industries.

"We all want a strong economy in this county," said John Pratt of the Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association. "We need the kind of professional assistance we get from (the Extension Service)."

Others spoke of the benefit for youth of programs such as 4-H. Crater High School junior Logan Krische, who participates in the 4-H cooking, speech, goat, beef and swine programs, said the program encourages leadership among students.

"They have provided me with lifelong skills," Krische said. "So much of our community relies on the Extension Service."

— Ryan Pfeil

Clarification: Wording has been clarified in this version.

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