Extension office faces looming budget hurdles

Friday, August 12, 2016
Pat Miller, Vernon County Agronomy Specialist and County Program Director. Submitted photo


At Monday night's MU Extension Council board meeting, Pat Miller, Vernon County program director, told the board about coming changes to the University of Missouri financial allotments for county offices.

Changes to the allotments include elimination of mail services funding, health coverage subsidies, and matching retirement contributions.

Miller said the county Extension office would receive one more mail services payment this fall. As of the end of the 2016 calendar year, the Vernon County Extension office will no longer receive money from MU to pay for mail services.

Miller handed out a document titled "MU Extension Allotment to County Office for FY2017."

According to that document, there are several reasons behind the discontinuance of the mail services allotment including the prevalence of email, increasing salary and benefit costs, and stagnant federal funding.

"Continued cuts to our MU allocation and state appropriations have forced us to reallocate mail expense funds for salary and benefits costs," the document reads.

In addition to the loss of funding for mail services, the document states that county offices may soon have to provide for their own Internet services.

Also changing is the supplement provided to the county offices to pay for support staff health benefits.

Miller said the MU Extension currently pays $400 per month for the Vernon County office's secretary's insurance.

"MU Extension has been advised to end the practice of providing counties a supplement for health insurance," the document reads. "As the Affordable Care Act outlined health care is the responsibility of individuals or their employer,"

In Vernon County, as in all Missouri counties, the Extension office support staff [secretary] are hired at the expense of the county Extension Council.

Vernon County will continue to receive a portion of that money as MU Extension redistributes it among all of the county offices.

"The result is that counties will have greater flexibility to use this funding source in support of extension county office programming," the document explained.

This change will take place over the next two fiscal years. When in place, each county will receive a flat subsidy and a set additional amount for each specialist based at that county office.

The last change comes to retirement matching funds.

"Effective Jan. 1, 2017, MU Extension will no longer be the administrator for the secretary retirement plan with Nationwide Retirement Solutions and will not have any connections to any secretary health insurance plans," the document reads.

It explains that retirement contributions for support staff will be at the discretion of individual county Extension boards.

* The board voted unanimously to approve the 2015 audit report.

"One thing we don't do that probably should be done is two signatures on a check," Pat Miller said.

"The last time we did something with the bank, they discouraged two signatures."

Jennifer Byers replied, referring to the 4-H club to which her children were members.

Miller explained that only having one signatory on a check had been acceptable to previous boards.

Board member Tom Harold suggested revisiting the issue next month.

* Patti Comstock and Pat Miller recently attended the regional council meeting.

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