HARRISVILLE The Alcona County Board of Commissioners approved the county's 2013 MSU Extension budget last week in a contract negotiation with district Coordinator Kelley Heimstra.
The board settled on a contract that was approximately the same one it used in 2012, outside of minor verbiage changes and a provision for a full-time 4-H instructor and an additional part-time secretary in the office, both of which the county had wanted but was unable to afford in the past. The board refused Heimstra's request to make a master gardener volunteer the office receptionist, as it had promised the employees union it would advertise and hire someone for the position. Heimstra will take the contract to Michigan State University for final approval.
The one-year contract affords MSU Extension an overall budget of $101,827 for services in the county, with a memorandum of agreement that $61,827 will go to MSU. Board Chair Kevin Boyat said the county used to pay between $20,000 and $30,000 a year for roughly the same services, and though he thinks MSU Extension's budget probably has plateaued, maintaining the status quo is tough when budget reductions need to go both ways.
"That's more than we spent in previous years. At one time, we didn't pay anything for Michigan State, and then we paid half of (4-H instructor Les Thomas') wage, and now we're paying more and more all the time," he said. "Basically we're getting the same thing. It's just that MSU wants more and more out of the county."
County residents passed a millage election in August for 0.14 mills expected to raise about $105,937.72 for MSU Extension services, and the commissioners expect this to cover all or most of the 2013 program budget.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.