Nember 13, 2000
Skimpy county budget cuts Extension programs
Carnation joins cities in lawsuit over I-722
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
Funding for King County Cooperative Extension, which runs such programs as 4-H and Master Gardeners, is proposed to be cut 40 percent in the King County Executive's 2001 budget.
The budget ax would chop off money needed for support staff, which would go from 11 to two employees.Three of the 10 who work full-time would lose their jobs.
The cuts would effectively finish off 4-H, Master Gardeners, Family Living and the popular farm tour program.
Concerned that these valuable programs could be permanently lost, Extension officials and volunteers have been heavily lobbying the King County Council, attempting to assure council members the programs are still vital and deserve to be funded.
But it may be all for naught.
"This is a very difficult time for the budget," said Elaine Kraft, spokesperson for Executive Ron Sims. "It is never easy to make cuts. But we have expenses, mandated by the state, that are not funded and most of those will go to criminal justice and water quality."
Kraft noted that Sims will be asking the Legislature this year for state funding for the criminal justice programs.
"As far as Cooperative Extension goes, some people will have to be creative in raising money," she said.
And that was all before I-722 passed. The initiative will roll back tax and fee increases adopted during the second half of last year and put a 2 percent limit on property-assessment increases.
I-722 has caused great concern, but Kraft said the county will not make any budget decisions until expected challenges to the initiative are played out in court.
Last Thursday, Carnation joined Seattle, Burien and Pasco in a lawsuit that asked a Thurston County Superior Court judge to throw out the initiative, claiming it violates a state constitution prohibition against dealing with more than one subject in a single initiative.
"We have adopted a 'wait and see' attitude," Kraft said. "If we cut and then restore programs it will just cost more. It is very difficult to make these cuts, but we want to make sure the poor and vulnerable don't have their services cut."
But Dana Chapman, aide to Councilmember Louise Miller, said the proposed cuts to Cooperative Extension "are unacceptable."
Chapman said Miller is extremely concerned over the potential loss of the programs and is working to restore support for at least part of the 4-H program.
"She is working with Extension staff and faculty to try to find money in the budget," said Chapman. "We do have a great deal of public support. We will be asking the council not to make these cuts ... that they are important to our district."
The County Council will be voting on the budget on Nov. 22.