By Jeff Shultz
It’s county budget time and county offices have submitted their estimate of needs for FY2021. All 77 counties in Oklahoma serve as extensions or subdivisions of the State of Oklahoma.
Garvin County’s OSU Extension Service Director and Educator, Melissa Koesler, addressed the Garvin County Commissioners at their regular meeting on Monday to request additional funding assistance. Koesler was joined by supporters and volunteers who are involved with the programs the extension service provides.
Boards of County Commissioners of each county in Oklahoma contract with the United States Department of Agriculture and with Oklahoma State University to facilitate the work of extension.
Like many OSU Extension centers in the state, Garvin County has seen a consistent decrease in state appropriated funding to support cooperative extension service.
Koesler wanted the commissioners to be aware of the increase in supplemental monies that her office will need to adequately serve the county.
In asking for additional support, Koesler told the commissioners the importance of funding the extension office.
“OSU is a research based university. The role of extension in providing timely information and education to our county is essential to the economy and well-being of our citizens,” stated Koesler.
The steady drop in funding has caused the extension office in Garvin County to be reduced to two employees. Garvin County had been staffed with four employees in the past. The educators share agriculture, family and consumer sciences, rural development and 4-H responsibilities. A program assistant and clerical support ensured needed programs were implemented in the county.
“Our programs are suffering because we don’t have enough people in our office to do the work needed,” Koesler said.
Those joining Koesler included former Family and Consumer Sciences/4-H Educator Phillis Cothren. Cothren served Garvin County in this role for over 25 years.
Recounting the essential services the extension service provides, Cothren also shared her concern for the youth in our county who are served by 4-H, the largest youth organization in the nation, telling the commissioners she was saddened by the program cuts that loom for the extension office.
“It breaks my heart that my grandkids won’t have the opportunities my children had with the 4-H program,” Cothren said.
Ron and Mona Endler of Elmore City were there to show support for the Oklahoma Home and Community Education (OHCE) program, an organization that has served Oklahoma since 1935.
Ron told the commissioners the OHCE group they belong to has seen a lack of coordination when it comes to the various community services the group has, such as delivering food to senior citizens and families in need.
The family and consumer sciences educators in each county also serve as advisors to the OHCE membership.
“We need to get that back,” he said.
Debra Arthur, Garvin County Free Fair Association board member, encouraged the commissioners to help fund the extension office as any extra funding would be an investment in the county.
Both Koesler and Arthur told commissioners any support they can provide represents much more than just money.
“These dollars are an investment in our county,” Arthur said. “These programs give the kids skills that most of them aren’t getting at home. We really need your support.”
The commissioners thanked Koesler and her supporters for the presentation.
The Garvin County Excise Board also met on Monday to receive the county estimate of needs and will conduct future meetings to address all budget requests.