UK trying to keep three county extension agents in Casey

May 04, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - The Casey County Extension District Board has been given until June 1 to reconsider its decision to do away with the 4-H agent's position or the county could lose the extension program altogether.

A letter written Thursday by Larry W. Turner, associate director of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, warned the local board of the consequences of its action.

"If no mutual agreement can be reached and a signed memorandum of agreement cannot be obtained between the Extension District Board and the UK CES by June 1, we will be forced to initiate steps to begin the process of closing the total Cooperative Extension Program in Casey County," the letter stated.

Turner said Monday that he is waiting for a response from the Casey Extension Board.

"All we're trying to do is to make sure the board is clear and understand what's required of us," Turner said. "We want to have a chance to meet with the board and talk."


The next scheduled Extension District Board meeting is May 19. There are no comments from the board at this time, said John Gossage, local Extension Board chairman.

Turner believes it is a mistake to move to a two-agent program in what has been a three-agent county. He believes the local board and UK can develop a budget together that will adequately fund three agents and provide for a high-quality program that he says the people in the county deserve.

Turner says he and Scott Smith, dean of the UK College of Agriculture, are willing to meet with the extension board to discuss the budget, options and constraints relative to the issue.

Some considerations for the Casey board

He suggested the Casey Extension Board consider the following regarding to the 2005 budget and the extension program:

* Funding is not being cut to the program from state and federal sources provided by UK CES. However, an increase in funding is being requested of all counties across the state to assist in meeting increased costs of staffing, program operation and technology delivery.

* If the board decides to fund only a two-agent program, it will be a long term process, as long as 10 years, to move back to three agents in the future if desired.

* The Extension District Board does not directly control staffing and personnel in the county, nor does the board have the authority to specify the types of positions to be filled in the county. The county Extension Council recommends programming and suggests characteristics of agents for the various positions. A budget specifying support for the specific type of agent programs is not acceptable for base programs of two or three agents. Only the number of agent positions may be specified. The final authority for professional staffing rests with UK as the employer of those professional staff, and UK employment policies must be considered.

* The county board's actions may be construed as an attempt to force the termination of a specific employee or employees. Such a discharge without cause would be in violation of UK policy and procedures. The exposure of both UK and the board to potential litigation must be considered.

* If adequate funds are not available to fund a three-agent program, the board may propose a budget for two agents only, but that must be mutually agreed upon by UK CES in its memorandum of agreement, and UK CES has final authority as to staffing to carry out the program needs recommended by the council or the board. The budget specifying two agents submitted to Casey Fiscal Court may be amended at any time, and final size and scope of the program will be outlined in an agreement by the local Extension Board and UK CES.

* Based on a review by UK CES of the proposed budget, adequate funding should be present to allow for a full scope of program offerings in Casey supporting three agents. The agreement between Casey and UK must be finalized prior to June 1.

* It will be more difficult to fill agent positions under a two-agent structure in Casey because applicants will be reluctant to take on the additional duties required of a two-agent agreement in a county the size of Casey.

The letter went on to say that UK CES is willing to work with the board on the budget in order to maintain three-agent status. "The cost increases associated with our new county cost-share structure are unavoidable. Most counties are meeting the new cost-share.

"We would be willing to discuss a transition plan for Casey County involving reduction in the cost share this year, and phasing in over three years to the full cost share," according to the letter.

Turner believes that with a reduced cost for the secretarial position and some additional savings, a feasible budget can be developed to support the three-agent program, according to the letter. He said this should allow time to further assess the budget, seek additional income sources and also allow the board to assess progress.

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