To The Daily Sun,
On January 28, the Belknap Delegation Subcommittee on Outside Agencies voted to recommend funding to Belknap County Cooperative Extension be cut by 23 percent — or $35,514. This recommendation comes after multiple years of reductions or level funding. It is important to note that the budget request from Cooperative Extension for 2016 was already a reduction over last year's budget and lower than the county appropriation has been since 2009. A budget cut of this magnitude would result in a reduction in staffing, reducing county programs such as 4-H, food and agriculture, forestry, and nutrition.
As volunteer members of the Belknap County Extension Advisory Council, we feel residents deserve to know how UNH Cooperative Extension benefits our communities and what would be lost if the full delegation votes to approve these cuts. This decision is not yet final so there is time for us to speak out.
Did you know that in the past year Cooperative Extension:
— Provided technical assistance to 97 farms in Belknap County. These programs help local farms improve their businesses, supporting continued access to locally-grown food and boosting the local economy.
— Supported 229 volunteers who donated over 7,500 hours working in Belknap County, monitoring our lakes and lands for pollution and invasive species, providing education and resources on sustainable agriculture and land management, and working with young people in the community to teach the skills necessary for them to become healthy, successful adults.
— Worked with communities and land owners to improve management of more than 7,250 acres of land.
— Trained 42 local educators in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and youth development and worked with 1,600 kids and parents.
The staff in the Belknap Extension office is trusted sources of information and important members of the community.
The benefits to the citizens are clear and county taxpayers are getting a great bargain as well. In 2015, every dollar of county funding for extension work was matched by $2.69 through UNH. Cuts to the county portion will lead to an equivalent loss of outside funds and resources supporting Belknap County. If these cuts are approved, we will all lose a great deal.
We encourage citizens to contact their legislators directly and consider attending upcoming delegation meetings. The next Delegation work session is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Belknap County Complex. While this will not be a public input session, the public is always welcome at meetings and your emails and phone calls before then are important. The Delegation has indicated that they want to hear from community members before the final vote so this is your chance to be heard.
To find out who your representatives are, visit the Belknap County web page at http://www.belknapcounty.org/pages/BelknapCounty_Delegation/index
Sandra McGonagle, Gilford
Jan Best, Gilmanton
Christine Corrigan, Meredith
Emily Chase, Belmont
Ralph Rathjen, Sanbornton
Sally Minkow, Laconia
Shelley and Savannah Garrity, Alton