Parents voice displeasure over Casey 4-H plan

April 22, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LIBERTY - Parents unhappy about the Casey County Extension Council's decision to do away with a 4-H agent voiced their concerns about the move Wednesday, but the panel appeared to be in no mood to discuss it.

Before taking public comments, council president John Gossage said that the 4-H program was not touched by the 2004-05 fiscal year budget that eliminates the agent position held by Jan Atwood. The board says a projected budget shortfall of $23,000 necessitates eliminating the 4-H agent position. The board would retain family and consumer sciences and agriculture agents.

"We didn't cut anything from the kids' 4-H," said Gossage, who later insisted that only 4-H "program support" was targeted.

But a handful of parents said the move would damage 4-H in the county.

Brian Burkett, a Casey pastor, said his sister left her position as 4-H agent in another county and was not replaced. The result, he said, was that "the 4-H program dwindled significantly."


"What you are trying to do will greatly inhibit the 4-H program," said Burkett, who told the board 4H had given him "the opportunity to advance beyond my circumstances in my community."

Frank McAninch said he also feared for the future of 4-H in the county.

"I have two little girls and I think it's a shame not to see a 4-H when they grow up," he said.

Angela Parker, who has two children in 4-H, noted that there were "no guarantees" the county would eventually return to three agents.

At a special session last week, the University of Kentucky's associated dean for extension, Larry Turner, told the board that "it will be five to 10 years to get back to a three-agent county."

Turner, in a letter to the board dated March 10, made it clear that he believed the county would be better off with three agents and that it was financially possible. He included a budget that made suggested cuts that would save the county the $23,000 necessary to fund the third agent position.

Board member Ricky Cannon, however, said after the meeting that Turner's budget proposals were unworkable.

"It doesn't work when you pencil it," he said.

Why plan for new building when a position is being cut?

McAninch asked pointed questions about the board's budget and how it could be tweaked to fund the 4-H position, and wondered how its members could plan for a new extension building when it was cutting a position.

"It looks like there's a need to be a three-agent county," he said. "The question comes down to priorities."

Although the board defended the new building as a project that has been planned and saved for over the past dozen years, it remained largely silent during the public comments.

One of the few exceptions came from board secretary Tracey Rodenbach, who said the decision to eliminate the 4-H agent position was the result of a funding shortfall that is typical across the country.

"The boards needs to make a decision," she said.

Parker, however, told the board that in dropping the 4-H agent, it is "eliminating a position that can raise funds."

The board made no reply.

After the meeting, parents lamented losing the 4-H agent.

"Kids love the program and it's flourished for the last two years," said Bonnie Shackleford, who is the 4-H council treasurer.

Parker said the decision would have repercussions for many years.

"It's a shame," she said. "This situation is going to be hurting the children of this county ... for decades."

Cannon, however, reiterated that eliminating the 4-H agent was the only way to handle the budget shortfall.

"You've got to stay within your budget," he said.

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