PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Jan. 16, 2009) — Members of the Pulaski County Extension Center board asked the county commissioners on Thursday to give its secretary a $1 hourly raise and increase the budget about 20 percent.
Extension center board member Karen Clawson of Richland told commissioners that the University of Missouri spends about $170,000 in salaries for the work of Sara Traub, a human development specialist, a 4-H staff member, and two nutrition workers.
“What we are asking for you is that you support the secretary and then pay their travel and the phone bill,” Clawson said.
The county’s requested contribution for 2009 is $29,000, she said.
Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall reminded Clawson that he’d asked agencies for a zero-growth budget, not a budget increase.
“We asked all officeholders in the county to remain at zero and we still came in $74,000 over budget, just holding the line,” Ransdall said. “We have to make up that $74,000 and in all reality we should make up $150,000 that we borrowed.”
Clawson said the extension center’s requested increase was mostly because a grant has expired. Actual expenses last year for the line items Pulaski County pay locally were $29,587, she said.
Responding to questions from Ransdall, Traub said the extension no longer receives a short-term $6,000 grant from the Warren Foundation that was offered the last time the county commission made major cuts to the Extension Center budget. Clawson said the Extension Center proposed what’s essentially a zero-growth budget that would only maintain existing programs.
“We’re telling it like it is,” Clawson said.
“I know that, and I’m telling it like it is, too. I’m not going to paint a big rosy picture and then jerk the rug out from under you,” Ransdall said.
Ransdall asked why the proposed cost for mileage is nearly $100 per week.
“Families are hurting here in Pulaski County and I was really hoping to get out to Dixon and some of the surrounding towns. People can’t always afford to come to town for these programs with the price of gas,” Traub said.
Extension center board member Bonnie Drury noted that the county is being asked to provide secretarial support for a program whose other activities are generally funded by state or federal grants.
“At this point we are saving your schools thousands of dollars because of the mandatory school wellness program,” Drury said. “We are fortunate that we bring into the county things that are saving the schools a lot of money.”
Staff member Waita Karcher noted that the 4-H program run by the extension center is also continuing to grow and needs staff support to function well.
“Our goal is to keep our office open five days a week. We have a very professional secretary right now, she works great with the community,” Traub said.
Ransdall said he sympathized with the Extension Center’s wishes but wasn’t sure they could be granted.
“We’ve gotten your request, we understand, and we will muddle through I guess,” Ransdall said. “My wife served on that board for many years; I’ve been a supporter of extension for years. This is just a difficult time for everyone, not just here in Pulaski County, and we’re better off than many.”