Budget cuts within University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service aren’t expected to diminish Augusta-area programs, a local official said.
“At this point, it looks like it will not affect Richmond County, and Columbia County is fully staffed with two agents and a secretary,” said Sid Mullis, the director of extension programs in Richmond County.
The university plans to cut 130 jobs to meet Gov. Nathan Deal’s order to reduce state budgets by 3 percent, according to the Athens Banner-Herald, and about 70 of those jobs will come from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The college, which manages the statewide network of extension offices, expects to accomplish many of the needed cuts by leaving vacant positions unfilled and by temporarily hiring retired workers at lower salaries.
The Augusta office has 15 employees, including six workers assigned to an expanded food and nutrition program, Mullis said. The food and nutrition staffers are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said.
The local office has just one vacancy, which might still be filled before cuts take effect.
“We have not had a 4-H agent in two years, and we have finally advertised starting Sept. 1 to fill it,” Mullis said. “We are hoping to get someone on board by the beginning of the year.”
Extension offices vary in size according to local population, agricultural impacts and the level of support from the counties.
“That’s one of the reasons we call it cooperative extension,” Mullis said. “It’s all part of a cooperative effort among the counties we serve and the College of Agriculture.”