MAYVILLE - Loss of county funding to the Chautauqua County 4-H program has been "detrimental," director Emily Kidd said Tuesday.
Funding in the county budget for the local 4-H organization has been slashed in the last five years, from as much as $100,000 in 2007 down to $25,000 in 2011. This year, funding was eliminated altogether in the budget.
"I'd love to see the county bring back that funding," Kidd told The Post-Journal. "It's been quite the turmoil without it. It's been very detrimental."
Kidd said the local 4-H has an annual budget of $350,000. With no assistance coming from Mayville, the group has been forced to rely primarily on grants and fundraising.
Asked if those efforts have covered the loss of county help, Kidd said, "Absolutely not. It's not coming even close to what we need. Everything we bring in goes right back to the kids."
Lawmakers are keeping their eye on County Executive Greg Edwards' tentative 2013 budget, expected to be unveiled next month.
In particular, Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, and Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, said this week they were supporting the reinstatement of the line item.
"Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Chautauqua County, and I believe that training today's youth to manage these farms and agriculture-related businesses is vital to the economy of our county," Barmore said in a news release.
Added Cornell: "Support for 4-H today is an investment in our local economy tomorrow. I also believe that funding 4-H says something about who we are as a county, what we believe to be our priorities and how we chose to cherish and preserve our strong agricultural roots."
The county executive said he is a "lifelong" supporter of 4-H, but noted the decision to strip funding was necessary to stay under the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap.
"Unfortunately we have to make tough decisions," said Edwards, who currently is in Tampa attending the Republican National Convention. "This was one of those tough decisions we had to make last year, and those will be some of the challenges we will see this year."
Cornell, however, said cutting the funding source was "shortsighted." She added that she recently was approached by 4-H families at the Chautauqua County Fair regarding the lack of county assistance.
"I think it is very important to note that as an organization, 4-H does extensive fundraising themselves and depends upon the generosity of many area businesses and foundations for programming, projects and individual clubs," she said.
"I know there is often the misconception that 4-H is simply one of the many quality youth programs we are fortunate to have in Chautauqua County," she continued. "When in reality, 4-H extends beyond such a definition and is really more of a development opportunity for our local agricultural industry."
Cornell said it was "too early to determine" how much she would seek in the 2013 budget for the youth development organization.
Kidd, meanwhile, said she would like to see the county fund at least $70,000 next year. She said that would allow 4-H to seek matching state and federal funding.
Edwards said he recently met with regional and local officials from 4-H, and noted that funding will continue to be discussed.
"We all know the value of 4-H," he said. "There are always more questions than answers with the budget. We will take everything under consideration for financial support."