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Cornell Cooperative Extension Director Defends Department

He asked the legislature to lessen proposed cuts to his department

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland Executive Director Paul Trader pleaded with the Rockland County Legislature Budget & Finance Committee Tuesday night to reduce the cuts to his department in the proposed 2013 budget.

“Cooperative Extension serves the entire community, not just one group of sector, helping 11,000 county residents, over 300 non-profits, 23 schools, 21 municipalities, 180 small businesses and seven county departments,” he said. “We are intensely aware of the serious budget issues that face you, but we respectfully request that you consider modifying the county executive’s proposal.”

Trader said the proposed budget calls for a 27 percent cut to the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s appropriation, bringing it down from $274,000 to $200,000.

“What will happen if this 27 percent cut remains in effect?” Trader said. “In short, we will have to shut down or severely curtail horticulture diagnostic lab, which advises almost 5,000 residents annually on pest identification and control, the use of alternatives to pesticides, prevention of lyme disease and how to remediate mold, asbestos and lead in homes and businesses.”

He added that the appropriation was cut by 30 percent this year. Trader asked the legislature to lessen the cut to his department.

“We are asking that you consider a cut of no more than 15 percent, which is approximately $41,000,” Trader said. “And while that still will impact our programs and services, it will allow us continue to operate effectively and efficiently in support of community education throughout the county.”

He added other possibilities if the 27 percent cut goes through include eliminating technical training and certification for horticulture pest control  businesses, as well as after school groups for teens at 12 high schools where they participate in programs not offered by the schools.  Trader added they might have to get rid of the Institute for Non-Profits, which serves more than 300 non-profits.

Trader said that in 2000, two-thirds of his department’s budget came from the count appropriation. Now, it accounts for less than a third of the budget as they’ve changed their ways to rely more on outside revenue that comes from grants and contracts. He said they’ve eliminated more than $110,000 in expenses and increased revenues through program fees and three new fundraising events.

Trader added that the cut to county appropriations hurt the extension’s ability to get outside money, and their state appropriations in 2012 were already cut by more than $5,000 due to a cut in county appropriations.

“Cooperative Extension gets no support from Cornell University,” he said. “It is up to us to generate our own revenues and, in fact, we have to pay Cornell University for services, such as payroll and computer support. We are now working with six other extension offices in the Hudson Valley to consolidate our business operations in order to save money and improve efficiencies.”

He added that he feels his department has done their part to help with the county’s fiscal situation.

“In short, we’re doing everything you’ve asked of us to cut costs, increase revenues and consolidation for efficiencies. But as an organization that was created by New York state law, we rely on the county appropriation to serve as the cornerstone that allows us to obtain grants, contracts and other funds,” he said. “That’s why our middle name is Cooperative. We were established 95 years ago in a cooperative arrangement between the federal, state and county governments. Without it, we will lose our other sources of funding.”

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