Next month, voters in Umatilla and Morrow counties will decide whether to form a new taxing district for the Oregon State University Extension Service.
If the ballot measures to form the districts pass, taxpayer money – proposed at 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed value – would support additional staff, utilities and maintenance among other things. The extension service has had to deal with state and federal budget cuts over the years. On top of that, was an edict issued about 10 or 11 years ago from Oregon State University that extension services would need to find as much as 25 percent of their funding from local sources.
Phil Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agriculture Research and Experiment Center, said he has had to spend a lot of his time asking for financial support from community businesses and organizations.
“Funding is a problem – that’s all there is to it,” Hamm said. “It’s an issue.”
An issue that a service district would help alleviate, supporters say.
Vern Fredrickson, a Morrow County potato farmer, the OSU Extension Service is critical to the area’s ag economy and has a positive impact on the young students involved in 4-H.
“The research center out here has developed controls for a number of pests that could cause havoc with farmers,” he said. “And the way my kids have developed through 4-H is incredible. It’s just amazing how these kids grow through 4-H programs.”
Umatilla and Morrow counties will have separate votes to form districts. If passed, tax revenue could generate up to $1.7 million annually for the extension center. All of the taxpayer money would stay in the local economy – none would go to Oregon State University, said Mary Corp, regional administrator for the OSU Extension Service.
And, said Hamm, the extension service is simply good economics. For every dollar invested, the local extension service brings an additional $5 from state and federal grants and contracts to Umatilla and Morrow counties.
Along with supporting the ag community and 4-H participants, the extension service promotes healthy diets and lifestyles through nutritional education programs. And OSU’s Master Gardener program which provides assistance in the art and science of plant care.
“People don’t know the breadth of work we do,” said Corp.