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COLUMBIANA CO. Farmers, others support sales tax

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Commissioners said they'd keep trying to fund the agricultural extension service.
LISBON -- Columbiana County's agricultural community is supporting a proposed 0.5-percent sales tax increase on the May 7 primary ballot.
Representatives of the county's various agricultural pursuits, including dairy, cattle and fruit-growing, attended the commissioners' meeting Wednesday to voice their support.
The tax is needed, in part, to help fund the county agricultural extension service. Besides overseeing the county's 4-H programs, the agency provides technical advice to those in agriculture and the general community.
County budget strains, brought on because expenses outpace revenues, have forced commissioners to cut appropriations for many county departments and services.
The extension service is one of those that's operating on a shoestring budget.
Funds appropriated
Commissioners appropriated $74,400 for the service's 2002 budget. That's about half what the agency requested.
The amount the county budgeted the agency, which also receives state and federal funds, is keeping it afloat, but just barely, officials say.
Passage of the sales tax increase, which would bring in about $3 million annually, could help keep the extension service funded and possibly lead to more adequate funding in the future, its supporters argue.
"We need the extension service to keep us abreast" of constantly changing agricultural regulations, said Dan Simmons of Peace Valley Orchard in Unity Township.
"I was in 4-H. My children were in 4-H," said Myron Wehr, a crop farmer from New Waterford. Wehr added that he's hopeful 4-H programs in the county will be there for his grandchildren.
"It's a small price that we pay for the extension services," Commissioner Dave Cranmer said. "I won't let it disappear."
Commissioner Sean Logan added, "We're committed to keeping that funding right in place."
Commissioner Chairman Jim Hoppel thanked the agricultural representatives for their support. He agreed the county must do everything it can to keep its extension service.