The Register-Guard via Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Shortly after voters in the primary election rejected a five-year property tax increase to help fund the Lane County Extension Service, officials said they will end most programs in the 96-year-old farm and families service by Labor Day weekend.

But an opponent of the local measure said she hopes the service will continue -- after it streamlines its operation.

Fifty-four percent of Lane voters rejected the Extension levy, which for five years would have doubled local funding to the service after the county eliminated an annual contribution of $500,000 two years ago.

The Extension Service, so-named because it extends Oregon State University courses across the state, is partially funded with federal and state money but requires a portion of funding to come from the counties where it operates.

After Tuesday's voting, the local service wasted no time in announcing its looming closure, issuing an e-mailed statement just three hours and 39 minutes after balloting had closed at 8 p.m.

The 13-person Lane County service has begun the planning to reassign about 10 OSU faculty in Lane County to other locations, lay off support staff and shut down all local programs that are not financially self-sustaining, staff chairman Steve Dodrill said in the statement.

Some services might run through the summer and Dodrill has said a federally funded nutrition program for limited-income individuals and families will continue. But the 4-H youth, gardening, food preservation, compost, study group and climate programs will end no later than Labor Day weekend, Dodrill said.

"Local residents will still have access to Extension educational materials and online learning opportunities through the Internet," Dodrill said. "Extension programs also will be available in neighboring counties that have local funding support, although Lane County residents may incur out-of-county fees for participation in those programs."

The failure of the levy contrasted sharply with the result for Extension in Polk County, where nearly 65 percent of voters approved a permanent tax that will triple the service's budget.

The failure of the levy contrasted sharply with the result for Extension in Polk County, where nearly 65 percent of voters approved a permanent tax that will triple the service's budget.

In Polk, "we're in kind of a rural county, and 4-H (youth) and the master gardeners and the agricultural programs are very big," said James Hermes, Polk Extension staff chairman. "(Lane County) is certainly a big urban county, and sometimes those things don't resonate as well with an urban audience."

User fees, donations, grants and in-kind support from the county can provide an adequate amount of local funding, Land said.

"It all starts with (officials) getting some real numbers .. and figuring out what parts need to be fixed," Land said. "This is not the end. This is actually a new beginning."

But Keith Diem, OSU regional director for Extension, said 34 of Oregon's 36 counties rely on one of two options for local funding -- taxpayer support, often in the form of property taxes, or money payments from county governments.

Lane County will join Multnomah County as one of two counties in Oregon with less than full-service Extension offices, Diem said.

It's difficult to say immediately whether the local measure fell victim to a rural-urban divide, because district-by-district voting results won't be available for weeks.

Diem said it is perhaps "harder to have people appreciate (Extension) in larger urban areas like Multnomah County and Eugene-Springfield."

But he pointed to the recent creation of an Extension taxing district in Clackamas as evidence that urban counties also support the services. "We try to change with the times to make sure we're relevant in every community," Diem said.


Information from: The Register-Guard,

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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