By DIANE R. CHODAN
OBSERVER Staff Writer
The theme for 4-H this year is "Past, present, future." Emily Kidd, extension issues leader for 4-H Youth Development, pointed to the unique materials in the 4-H building at the fair that represented the past and the current work of the participants that represents the present. She thinks it is critical to think about the future. Funding is one item impacting that future.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Top: Marissa Burr of Fredonia, who has been in 4-H for three years, gives a presentation on the food pyramid in the public speaking category. She received a blue ribbon. Public speaking is one of the many activities in 4-H that help participants become successful adults.
Above: The Stockton Panthers 4-H club received a blue ribbon for its display. The club has been functioning for 75 years.
"4-H could go away," Andy Ellis, a 4-H member from Cassadaga volunteering in the snack bar, said.
Staff, members, parents, volunteers from 4-H as well as county legislators and the county executive recognize the value of 4-H.
"I just returned from the county fair this afternoon and saw the wonderful 4-H program that is presented there. What I saw was a bunch of very good kids doing a great job. Kids who we can all be very proud of," Legislator John Runkle, R-Cassadaga, and a member of the Audit and Control Committee, said.
Cheryl Robinson, a building superintendent for the 4-H building and longtime volunteer, saw the impact on her own children and that is why she continues to volunteer.
"It (4-H) means a ton to these kids. Public speaking and business experience helps them succeed in life," she said.
Two important questions are whether 4-H will be funded by the county and whether it should be funded by the county.
Parent Mary Burr, whose daughter Marissa received a blue ribbon for public speaking, thinks so.
"The program helps our children and that's our future," she said.
Legislature Chairman Frank "Jay" Gould, R-Ashville, isn't sure. He serves on the Cornell Cooperative Extension-Chautauqua County Board.
"I am middle of the road on this issue," he said. "I have served on the Audit and Control Committee and I understand finances. I also understand about 4-H. I don't know at this point."
Runkle said, "As part of this budget examination, we will again be looking at potential requests to fund 4-H. Our committee will certainly keep an open mind on this matter."
County Executive Greg Edwards, when asked whether there will be funding for 4-H, explained that the budget has not been built yet so "it's too early to tell."
He described the challenge as he sees it. "As New York state demands 90 percent of our revenue, that leaves 10 percent." From this part of the budget, funding goes to roads and bridges, safety services, seniors and veterans. County government has to make difficult choices.
County Legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, who is on the Audit and Control Committee said, "We are at the point now where we are making drastic cuts to even those bare-boned programs in order to satisfy the state's appetite to increase welfare benefits at an alarming rate."
Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, Ranking Member of the Audit and Control Committee, said, "We have not yet begun 2013 budget discussions yet and I am not aware of any movement by the legislature to restore 4-H funding at this time." Nazzaro predicted that the budget process was going to be difficult.
Thomas DeJoe D-Brocton, also a member of audit and control said he did want to raise false hopes for 4-H members and parents.
"There was no funding in the 2012 budget for 4-H and I believe that the 2011 Budget reduced 4-H funding. Personally, I don't see there being any change, at this time, to reinstate 4-H funding for 2013 in light of the projected debt for 2013," he said.
Edwards, Borrello, and Nazzaro all said they understood that 4-H has done well with private fundraising.
Edwards explained he has an agricultural background and privately supports 4-H.
"Fortunately 4-H through one new fundraiser raised more money that the county allocates. ... Congratulations to the leadership for rolling up their sleeves and working to get the funding," he said.
But according to Kidd, they did not raise all they had hoped, even though the public was extremely generous. "We did see an extensive outpouring of support. We raised three-quarters of our budget," she said.
Kidd explained that since the program did not receive county matched funds it received no state funding. Eventually, that will also affect federal funding.
The program received grants from the Carnahan Jackson Foundation, Chautauqua Regional Community Foundation, and Cummins Engine Foundation.
Kidd detailed some of the effects of the reduced budget. "Staff will have to work on fund development instead of program," she said.
The profit from the snack bar at the fair, which is about $10,000, went to the program instead of funding award trips for members. The veterinary science program has been dropped.
Kidd worries that the generous private grants won't be there this year and more programs will have to be cut or reduced.
Anyone interested in privately supporting 4-H can send a donation to 4-H, Cooperative Extension, 3542 Turner Road, Jamestown, N.Y. 14701. Anyone with questions may call 664-9502 extension 214.
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