JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. – The future of 4-H in Josephine County was in the spotlight at a board of commissioners meeting Wednesday.
Chris Elliott, Associate Director for Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service said “the decision before you today impacts over 100 youth involved in 4-H clubs, school-based programs, and camps.”
County commissioners voted Wednesday to end the 4.5 cent property tax that helped fund OSU services in the county.
They claim hundreds of children left 4-H in the past year to join other programs, such as Josephine County’s Youth and Ag, after a dispute over a club t-shirt.
But OSU Extension Service says it won’t only be 4-H that’s affected.
“I want you to think about, or request respectfully that you think about, the entire program that happens in Josephine County,” Elliott told the board of commissioners.
The OSU Extension Service in Josephine County funds the Master Gardener Program, Forestry Programs, and many more, including access to community resources.
Josephine County has funded administration services for the programs since 1996.
“Per measure 1758 voted by taxpayers in 1996, our budget pays for expenses associated with the county office,” said OSU Extension Service office administrator Kayla Sheets.
OSU says it has numerous records of its staff requesting meetings with the board of commissioners over this issue.
“I know that our staff has reached out numerous times to meet with the commissioners, to meet with staff, and those have fallen on deaf ears,” Elliott said.
County commissioners argue the tax cut will not affect the program’s budget until June of next year, saying the program has enough reserve funds to provide services until then.
The extension service says it isn’t that simple.
“Those funds in reserve can’t just be spent by our office because they’re there in reserve,” Elliott explained.
Commissioners argue the services get other funding and will have to decide how to spend it- in Josephine County or not.
“If you’re saying well if you don’t get the four and a half cents you’re gonna take away the state funded, federal funded, snap funded grant funded, if that’s what you folks up north want to do and say well we’re gonna make the adults down here suffer for those programs, knock yourself out,” said John West, Josephine County Commissioner.
Commissioners also voted 2-1 to terminate a service agreement between the county and OSU Extension for its services.
OSU says it will now develop a transition plan based on funding projections for the coming year.
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