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Reno-based cooperative extension dean addresses budget concerns

A chain of recent budget cuts by Nye County commissioners has recently prompted concerns among several officials, including the dean of University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension Mark Walker.

On Tuesday, Walker addressed some of the issues associated with the potential fund retraction from the extension to the Nye County commissioners. He called for collaboration and encouraged them to keep the extension open.

“Right now, the funding from the counties (where we have extensions) comprises about 41 percent of our total budget,” he said. “In Nye County, I think the portion of the contribution if you factor in grants and salaries, is about 33 percent, something like that.”

The extension is jointly funded by county taxes, the state general fund and several sources of federal funding, Walker added. Extension educators get grants from a range of sources to address local needs.

The county’s requirement to set aside taxpayer funds for the University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension in Pahrump is among several items that are currently being reviewed by the district’s attorney for potential budget cuts. The other two include county funding for health clinics and Pahrump Valley Museum and Central Nevada Museum in Tonopah.

In 2014, the county supported the extension by $200,000 — almost twice as much as the state did according to the annual report from that year. However, as part of the recent budget cuts, the county cut its $50,000 funding for the extension prior to approval for the current county budget which started July 1.

“I want to say that I understand the financial difficulties that Nye County faces,” Walker said. “I sympathize completely, our budget really doesn’t look a lot better than yours. I expect that it doesn’t have quite as much red ink, proportion of red ink, as yours does.”

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen however offered a different take on the situation.

“We cannot cut (the funding) since the tax bills have gone out,” he said in an email. “Nobody wants to cut that or the museums, but since the state thrust on us a $400,000 deficit two weeks into the new budget, we are still looking to shore up the budget.”

Whether or not the budget is cut, Walker said Nye County should have a voice in a conversation about the future of the Cooperative Extension throughout Nevada.

Referring to some of the local issues, including drought, floods and erosion, Walker said he had convened a group comprised of experts from the southwest region and extension staff from several branches.

“We talked about not only how to combine our efforts to meet individual state needs because nobody is better off than Nevada at this point and Nevada is better off than nobody else too in terms of budget and support,” he said. “We talked about the best way to bring state specialists from other states to come in and talk to people like you about what things like climate change and extreme weather are all about. … That’s a group that we applied for federal funding, we are awaiting the decision there to see what will happen there, but our idea is to take those people from Arizona, Utah, California, New Mexico and Colorado and make them available to people in our state.”

Nevertheless, if the board has to withdraw all county support for the extension, Walker said it would have to stop all its activities in Nye County.

“I’m hoping that our partnership with Nye County and every county in the state stays strong,” he said. “I look forward to continue to work with you.”


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