With Fulton County possibly ending its funding for Cornell Cooperative Extension next year, the Montgomery County Legislature will consider increasing its own funding for the program.
Montgomery County Legislator Ryan Weitz is planning to introduce an amendment to County Executive Matt Ossenfort’s 2016 executive budget at a meeting Tuesday to increase CCE funding from $80,000 to $100,000.
“This is a critically important service that we as a county are able to offer citizens in our community, everybody from children in 4-H to farmers that make up so much of our county,” Weitz said last week.
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors is so far planning to conclude a three-year phase-out of CCE funding begun in 2012, with no money budgeted for the program in 2016.
Without Fulton County funding, the association will “decouple” and serve only Montgomery County, according to Brian Gilchrist, association executive director for CCE in Fulton, Montgomery and Washington counties. That would make Fulton County the only county in the state, including New York City, without a CCE presence.
While Weitz said the news of Fulton County’s phase-out of the program initially prompted his desire to increase funding in his own county, he recognizes that “it’s not that simple.” Gilchrist said last week that if the organization decouples, it would be inappropriate to allow Fulton County residents to access Montgomery County CCE programs.
Gilchrist said Montgomery County currently spends about four times what Fulton County spends on CCE, though there have been decreases in recent years all across the state. In 2010, Fulton County contributed $129,000 and Montgomery County $178,000.
“Obviously, Montgomery County cannot be in the business of subsidizing and funding Fulton County services,” Weitz said. “But frankly, I would support allowing some programming to be accessed by Fulton County residents, such as 4-H.”
Ossenfort’s executive budget already includes a $10,000 increase for Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2016.
The county’s 4-H program, run by CCE, currently serves about 135 youth with 61 adult volunteers. In Fulton County, there are 65 youth members and 45 adults, many of whom have been the most outspoken advocates of restoring CCE funding.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors chairman and Caroga town Supervisor Ralph Ottuso said last week that CCE funding was something the board would “probably revisit.”
Weitz said that regardless of whether or not the extra funding would serve to balance out the lack of Fulton County funding, he’s in favor of the increase.
“I think it’s time that we start getting that back up to where it should be,” he said. “It’s kind of a difficult situation in that we really don’t know what Cornell will look like next year, because if it’s just Montgomery County, Cornell, the state funding mechanisms and the programming, it’s all going to change.”
Weitz’s proposal will be one of about 70 budget amendments considered by the Montgomery County Legislature on Tuesday. For the $20,000 CCE increase, Weitz proposes moving funds from the Legislature’s professional services line or taking the money from the county’s reserves.
He said the measure had some initial support, and he hoped to gain more by Tuesday.
“I really hope to have the support of the entire Legislature on this,” he said. “I think it’s something that we should all be able to get behind.”
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