OSU requests up: Staffing shortfall, may share person with Mercer

With fewer staff members doing more work, high gasoline prices and a copy machine that may need replaced, the director of OSU’s Extension Office in Auglaize County requested approximately a $50,000 increase in the 2012 budget.
“Basically, we’re just trying to cover our costs,” Auglaize County OSU Extension Office Director Beth Miller said.
She requested $252,350 in funding from the Auglaize County commissioners. The request is $48,575 more than in 2011, when the office for the second consecutive year had to calculate zero spending in several line items just to try to make ends meet.
The office had requested more than $254,000 for 2011 after 2010 also saw them budgeting nothing for nine line items varying from supplies and services to postage, program supplies and travel, but they were instead granted a little more than $203,000. Carryover from previous years has been used to pay deficits in the past but has decreased significantly.
In addition to receiving money through a grant from the county, the local Extension Office also is funded through state and federal dollars, including grants for specific programs and cost sharing of salaries.
Staffing, the largest percentage of the office’s budget, allows for six full-time employees which is down to four for the last several months of this year, Miller said it has allowed them to end 2011 being able to pay for some line items that had not been budgeted at the amounts spent.
“Unfortunately, we have two vacancies, but on the positive side, it has given us some extra dollars we need for other things,” Miller said.
The line item budgeted at $223,700 for 2012 includes a full six-member staff and benefits, but it is unknown at this time how or if those vacancies will be filled. There has been discussion about sharing a family and consumer sciences educator with Mercer County, which would allow both counties to save money but could impact programming offered.
How positions are filled and when depends on funding and needs, Miller said.
Educator costs are set by the state with the county paying a portion of those salaries while program and office assistant positions are paid entirely by the county. A nutrition educator in the office has had her salary funded through a grant for several years.
Miller said they also are anticipating needing more money for program supplies and to pay travel costs for going out into the county to present programs in areas of 4-H, agriculture and natural resources, community development, and family and consumer sciences.
“We are doing a lot less travel than we used to,” Miller said, explaining that more education sessions for employees are being offered online.
As far as programming offered by educators in the office, Miller said they are trying to become wiser in their choices.
“We try very hard to serve our clientele, but what we offer will change as our staff changes, we have to look at doing things differently,” Miller said.
In 2012, she requested $14,000 for travel, a figure which has tended to range between $10,000 and $12,000 for the Extension Office.
Also next year, Miller said she’s requesting $6,000 for equipment purchases to replace an old copier and $5,500 for supplies and services, both increases from 2011’s budget, when nothing was allocated in the two line items.
Helping to compensate for the increases is a mid-year switch to the county’s phone system, which is expected to save close to $3,000 a year.
“Whatever we’re granted we will try to work with and maintain the staff we have,” Miller said. “We feel very fortunate for any support we get from the commissioners as we look at all the other counties are facing.”
While the state’s funding to the program has been relatively steady, Miller said she hopes that continues as federal support has been cut some.
“Overall though when we look at cuts that have been made, we are relatively fortunate,” Miller said. “We are appreciative of any support we are given. The big goal in 2012 is to try and maintain services to our clientele as best we can based on the challenges and changes we face in the future.”