In January, Gov. Dennis Daugaard�s budget outlined a 10 percent reduction in the FY12 state general fund for all activities � including an elimination of $820,000 — for the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service.
State legislators approved the budget in March, which means SDSU Extension has make some reductions of its own.
As a result, Extension workers are being laid off and offices are being consolidated.
On Monday night, residents and Extension representatives gathered at the Clay County Extension Office in Vermillion to find out just how they may be affected by the cuts.
According to Extension educator Will Kennedy, Clay County may have to partner with another county to hire a 4-H advisor, of which there will be at least 34 across the state.
�Going forward, I�ve been questioned about who would we team up with,� Kennedy said. �Union County has enough that the state will pay for a 20-hour-a-week employee for them with no benefits. So they don�t need us. What they might want is someone full-time split between the two counties if that works.�
The advisors will be state employees who work in the county, supplemented by the county commissions, Kennedy said. They would work for a fixed paycheck, even if they exceed 40 hours per week.
�If we split with two counties, SDSU would pay $16,750, plus benefits � and then each county would pay $8,375,� he said.
Other advisory capacities will be transferred to the regional Extension centers, of which there will be eight, as well as three more federally-approved centers located on the reservations.
Regional centers are set to open Oct. 22 and will be located in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Watertown, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City and Faith.
�I do not know why there�s not one in Yankton,� Kennedy said. �My jaw dropped when I saw that. I just don�t know. I was also told that this is a starting point. It could change depending on revenue, depending on need.�
In a pre-recorded video message Dr. Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at SDSU, explained the reasoning behind the center locations.
�We selected these sites because they�ve become the business hubs of South Dakota,� Dunn said. �They provide medical services for us, government services are located there and they�ve become major shopping and retail areas. Ninety-five percent of the audiences we�ve served are within a 75-mile radius of these sites.�
The delivery of information will rely more on technology, including Web-based resources, mobile devices and video conferencing at each of the centers, Dunn added.
�This is an important step for us to take. The world is changing rapidly, and we need to be nimble enough to change with it,� he said.
Kennedy said the budget cuts should not affect such events as Achievement Days.
�I think when those counties start having three or four Achievement Days combining into one, the fight�s going to be on,� he said. �That�s where there�s going to be hurt feelings. It�s like schools consolidating � they lose a little bit of their town. I don�t think we�re going to have to worry about that for the near future.�
He added that he did not foresee the state fair being affected, either � this year, at least.
�Until things turn around, it�s going to be tight,� Kennedy said. �It�s not always going to be free anymore. But you know, the state doesn�t owe us a 4-H program, they don�t owe us a horse show, they don�t owe us that stuff. And that�s OK, we can raise funds, we can do things like that.�
Julie Fallan, president of the Clay County Leaders Association, said any slack in preparations of the Clay County Fair will have to be picked up by local citizens, as well.
�If we don�t have an advisor here working with Clay County, it will fall on the volunteers, the leaders and the parents to put the fair together,� she said.
The Extension service is not the only cut faced by SDSU. The university also will be required to close two of its eight experiment stations across the state, as well as two of its on-campus service labs.
Despite this, Dunn said SDSU will work to maintain its relationships with its advisory boards and county commissions to provide services.
�We are committed to continue our strong service to you, but in new and relevant ways,� he said. �We will look different. We anticipate that this will be controversial and will need a time of adjustment, but it�s a step that we need to take, not only because of the budget cuts that we face, but because it is the right thing to do � to move forward in a new and emerging world.�
For more information about the restructuring of the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, visit http://www.sdstate.edu/sdces/index.cfm.