Given the current fragile state of the economy, watching every penny of one's dollar is a priority. Given the ever-increasing cost of services and goods and couple that with many instances of salary freezes, taxpayers are understandably hesitant to part with their hard-earned dollars, especially when they never seem to go as far as they should.
Now, put yourself in another pair of shoes.
You are a part of an agency charged with serving the residents of your area in a multi-faceted mission one of education, resources and support. But, you have to accomplish this mission using the same funding that you received 24 years ago, and you have to do it in today's economy, not the economy of 1986.
Welcome to the dilemma of the Palo Alto County Extension Council. This elected organization has been trying for the past several years to earn voter support of a referendum on the ballot which would allow for an annual tax asking of thirty cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation on property. Passage of the referendum would give the Extension Council the authority to levy that maximum amount, which could generate up to an additional $66,000 per year for the Palo Alto County Extension Service. But, the Extension Council would not have to levy that maximum amount of thirty cents per thousand it could be less.
So, why is this referendum is so important?
In 1986, the Palo Alto County Extension Service received $75,000 in appropriations through tax dollars from Palo Alto County. That funding paid the salaries of two full-time staff members and paid a share of the yearly salary of a county extension director along with Iowa State University, and also paid for specialist support services from extension specialists, such as crops, swine, beef and community specialists from Iowa State. Additionally, the cost of supplies, equipment and benefits also came out of the appropriation.
Now, fast-forward 24 years to 2010. The appropriation is still the same $75,000 a year to pay the salaries and benefits for a full time office assistant and the 4-H and Youth programmer. The county extension educator position is shared with several other counties after Iowa State University reorganized the Extension Service a couple of years ago. The cost of doing business has gone up markedly since 1986 utilities, postage, equipment, the list goes on.
The budget has been uncomfortably tight for many years, with the Extension Service being supported through the generosity of the county Board of Supervisors and other entities, including private businesses and individuals with financial support. The need for the additional funding is more than justified.
The ongoing educational benefits to our youth through 4-H and related programs has incalculable value, and there is value in other educational outreaches, such as private and commercial pesticide applicator courses, community betterment activities such as the Horizons' Leadership Program that led to the STORM Program and assistance to business and industry in the county.
So, what is the cost?
Based on the maximum referendum amount of thirty cents per thousand, the approximate cost for a home valued at $100,000 would be $5.94 per year. For a $50,000 home, the rate would be $2.63 per year.
There are few items in our society that have the ability to touch and affect our neighbors, friends and ourselves as Extension has and does. For such a modest investment, and the act of saying "Yes" to the Extension Measure on the November ballot, we can continue the work of an organization that was created to serve the people of rural Iowa through education and appreciation of this great land.