Thursday, April 29, 2010
Tomorrow is a furlough day for the University System in Georgia, which means I'm forbidden to work. Only faculty and staff who provide "essential services" are allowed to report on furlough days and, ironically enough, instruction is not considered an essential service.
These are lean budgetary times and we're all expected to share the burden. I have no problem with that. However, it's hard not to be concerned about what lies ahead. The legislature is in its final day and hopefully at the end of it we'll have a state budget for FY 2011.
"What does that have to do with land use," you might ask? That depends on how much of a cut the University system takes in the final budget. Last month the legislature asked the Chancellor to submit a budget that included $300 million in additional cuts, over the budget cuts they have already made and were making for 2011. The Chancellor's proposal would eliminate the 4-H program and cut the number of county extension agents in half. In a state where agriculture is a dominant economic force, those cuts are extremely significant. (UGA's Public Service and Outreach branch would also suffer layoffs of up to 47% of faculty and staff.)
It doesn't look as if such extreme cuts will come, but the cut will probably be about $150 million, which is still pretty significant. In state like Georgia, rural communities depend on UGA to fulfill its land grant mission of service. Extension agents are vital sources of knowledge on land use practices, soil and water conservation, and a host of other subjects. As federal stimulus dollars dry up, it becomes increasingly difficult for the University to fulfill those functions. We'll see what lies ahead.
Jamie Baker Roskie