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UT Extension Office position in limbo
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Warren County’s UT Extension Office will have to wait to fill an open position. County officials want to hold off on making financial promises until considering the fiscal year 2012-13 budget.
“I don’t know if we can give you a complete answer on this until we get into this year’s budgets,” said Commissioner Herschel Wells during a Budget and Finance Committee meeting.
Commissioner Ken Martin added, “I was thinking the same thing. How can we do this before we look at the budgets?”
University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Office director Dale Beaty asked the committee for a letter of understanding, that being a correspondence from the county to Tennessee State University saying the county would fund the salary of an extension agent in the department’s 2012-13 fiscal year budget.
TSU offered to help Warren County fund an agriculture extension agent in its local UT office. If the county agrees to pay 33 percent of the salary and retirement, TSU would pay the remaining 67 percent.
For the county, the cost would be minimal. Beaty says annual salary could range from $31,000 to $34,000 depending on education level. Retirement will be 13 percent of salary. The county would be responsible for one-third of salary and benefits, that being no more than $15,000.
“Salary and benefits will cost the county roughly $13,000 to $15,000 a year,” said Beaty. “The individual would be working in my department for the county, but he or she would also be an employee of TSU. This is actually a savings to the county compared to what it was paying.”
The county’s Extension Office is currently lacking two agents — one that resigned recently and one that was eliminated last year due to UT budget cuts.
Beaty is trying to fill the latter position. The agent was paid jointly by University of Tennessee and Warren County by a similar agreement under consideration from TSU. When UT eliminated the position last year, the county pulled $17,000 from the department’s budget.
Beaty would like to go ahead and have TSU begin the hiring process and pay the individual out of the current budget until next year’s can be set in July.
To reassure TSU the county would place the additional funds in the department’s budget and the position would not be eliminated two months after it begins, Beaty wants to send TSU a letter stating the county understands the agreement and will add the additional funds into the department’s budget when set.
“I don’t want to do this and then, have no money in the budget to pay them next year,” said Beaty. “I need to be able to give them some reassurance the county will pay its portion.”
This was Beaty’s second attempt to obtain funding to pay the agent. He addressed the Economic Development and Agricultural Committee in March and was told to bring the matter before Budget and Finance Committee.
The news Budget and Finance is unwilling to provide the letter brought a response of cold reality that Beaty won’t be heading Warren County’s Extension Office much longer.
“I’m not going to work forever, and I would like to leave this department in good hands,” Beaty said. “If we can get someone with education and experience, I could spend a couple years with them before I retire. They might work for TSU, but I want the individual to be dedicated to Warren County.”
Beaty was instructed by committee members to include the additional funding in his proposed 2012-13 fiscal year budget. Reviews should begin this month.
“I will ask TSU to hold off until we get the funds in the budget,” said Beaty. “If I can get that, hopefully they can get someone in here.”