By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL
OBSERVER Staff Writer
More than 500 youths in Chautauqua County and more than 300 in Cattaraugus County may be in trouble this year. The county legislature has cut funding to both counties' 4-H programs.
The Stockton Panther and Panther Paws 4-H clubs pose together as they make a donation to the WCA Hospital Dialysis Department.
The Chautauqua County Legislature has cut $192,000 from the county budget this year for the youth bureau and youth programming. Chautauqua County funding for all programs will now have to be shared among the youth programs. Chautauqua County 4-H last year received $70,000 with some federal and state money to match.
"We've kind of cut everything down to the bare minimum," Emily Kidd, issue leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), said.
The 4-H's current year runs from October through Sept. 30. The 4H has 26 clubs that sponsor activities for the children. Some of the programs include ceramics, forestry as well as programs that teach children how to properly raise and care for livestock. All research is backed by CCE.
"We're very strong in youth voice," Kidd said. "We let the kids pick what they're interested in."
The minimum budget that Chautauqua County 4-H can operate on is $100,000. Last year, they received $25,000 from the county with matching funds from the state for a total of $50,000. They did fundraising as well.
"We cut out the last that we could out of our budget which was all-expense paid award trips," Kidd said.
Each trip cost about $10,000 and were included in the budget. These trips would send participants throughout New York state, New York City and Washington D.C. to compete.
This current year, the county legislature did not have any money for 4H.
"At this point we have received zero funding from the legislature," Kidd said.
The 4-H still has a presentation to see how much New York state will give the program.
"We're going to have to do some serious evaluation before we figure out how we're getting through next year," Kidd said. "Hopefully we have secured enough to get through this year."
RAISING FUNDS FOR 4-H
Since there was no money coming in from the county, the money raised from the snack bar at the Chautauqua County Fair is being used to cover the costs of operating currently. Participants also pay dues which help offset costs as well.
Also to help make up for funding cuts, Chautauqua County 4-H is hosting a dinner on Feb. 19 at Falcon's Nest in Falconer. The "Have a Heart for 4-H Benefit" will be held from noon to 5 p.m. and there will also be a basket raffle hosted by 96 Kix and WDOE. Dinner does not need to be purchased in order to participate in the raffle.
The menu, which is a buffet style, includes pulled pork sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches, ham and scalloped potatoes, meatballs, mac and cheese, squash, corn and homemade pies. There will be juices from Welch's, Cott Beverages and the grower's co-op. Milk will be provided by Upstate Farms.
Tickets will be available at the door at a price of $18 for adults and $12 for children. Tickets may be purchased by called the 4H Department office at 664-9502, Ext. 214. Tickets may also be purchased at Lakeview Gardens located at 1259 N. Main St., Jamestown.
Currently, the Chautauqua County 4H has about $40,000 raised and they are currently working to raise $60,000. If anyone wants to donate to Chautauqua County 4H they can have checks or money orders payable to CCE. For more information on donating, call the 4H Department offices.
BLINDSIDED WITH CUTS
Cattaraugus County is also having issues with their 4H. They have received a very large cut from the county but still received $50,000 to keep the program going. This was a decrease from $80,000 the previous year from county funding. Executive Director of CCE for Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties Dianne Baker said while Chautauqua County knew funding cuts were probable, Cattaraugus County really had no idea.
"We're going to be able to operate this year because we have some other funds that we can keep the program going. We lost $205,000 from our county appropriations which is 80 percent of what we have normally gotten over the past few years," Baker said.
"I don't fault the county at all. They were in a tough place, too," she continued.
In order to make 4H successful, the program is cutting and suspending the agricultural program.
"We have to make (4H) successful because we have money from the county so we're taking money from other things that might have gone into administration," Baker said. "We actually have suspended our entire agricultural program because there is no way to pay them."
Due to this cut, a total of two and a half positions have been cut. An agricultural economic development position, a field crops position have been eliminated and an office assistant has been reduced from full-time to part-time.
Even with the budget cuts, Baker said the 4H does not seem to be too worried about this coming year but next year is when they may start having troubles.
The program needs a total of approximately $85,000 to run the program efficiently, which is still about $35,000 short of what the funding is currently. The program's more than 200 volunteers are trying to brain storm fundraising ideas as well as applying for grants to make up that funding gap.
The Cattaraugus County 4H, like Chautauqua County, program year runs from Oct. 1 through the end of September. Children also pay fees to participate in 4H. Currently, there is no increase in fees but in coming years, this may change, according to Baker. This all depends on county funding for next year which is impossible to predict but Baker said it is a rare occasion to receive more funding than in the previous year.
The Cattaraugus County 4H will be in good shape this coming year but next year may be more difficult.
"This year, I think we'll be able to get through the year but next year (our volunteers) are looking at fundraisers similar to what they are doing in Chautauqua County. We are looking for other resources for revenue," Baker said.
Next year, Cattaraugus County may be looking to Chautauqua County's 4H for fundraising inspiration.
"The beauty in Chautauqua County is that they had volunteers already who have kind of stepped up to the plate and make sure that there was funding available," Baker said. "It's a lot of work but they're doing a tremendous job."
While the 4H is having troubles, the kids still want to be a part of the program which is making it easier on program administrators.
"The beauty of the kids that are still part of the 4H program are very interested in staying in 4H which I think is great and that helps a lot," Baker said. "It seems like when you are having a hard time, your really strong volunteers come out and want to help and that makes a difference as well."
One program that may still be in jeopardy is the trips 4H sends their participants on. While the trips' fate have not been officially decided on, some trips have been cut back in the past from annually to bi-annually. Volunteers also help fund-raise for these trips.
While funding has been cut, the two 4H programs are trying to share services and continue to move forward. Any 4H member can attend another county's services. Chautauqua County and Cattaraugus counties allow their participants to go to the other 4H to participate in activities.
"We do share programs anyone from any of the three counties is invited to participate in educational programs that we have," Baker said.
Comments on this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.