MOUNT VERNON — Rob Clendening, Knox Soil & Water Conservation District program administrator, and representatives of the KSWCD’s board met with the Knox County Commissioners to formally submit the department’s budget for 2010. The agency, which oversees soil conservation practices and regulations in the county, will be taking a large budget reduction in 2010, at a time when the state has reduced its contribution as well.
Clendening took a pragmatic approach.
“I’m not going to sit here and beg you not to cut our budget, or talk about how much our services will be reduced,” Clendening said. “We all know that. I understand that there’s nothing you can do when you simply don’t have the money.”
“We want to thank you for appreciating the situation we’re in,” Commissioner Allen Stockberger said.
“We’re not happy that you have to be cut,” added Commissioner Robert Wise, noting that the commissioners have received some calls from constituents asking them not to cut KSWCD’s budget. But Wise said the overall budget-slashing requirements for the county come to such a significant amount, no department can be exempted from the bitter medicine.
Clendening submitted numbers reflecting a 20 percent decrease in county funding compared to the initial appropriation from 2009. He explained that the department has already made many budget reductions, including reduction of staff by 25 percent and reduction of every line item in the budget.
He said the cash balance the KSWCD had built up in the last few years to give it a cushion to help through lean times such as now would make up a calculated $23,731 budget shortfall. He added that the surplus was designed to help it close budget gaps for up to four years at the most. The cash balance is calculated to be approximately $149,915 at the end of this year.
“I wish all departments operated with this much foresight,” Stockberger said.
“It will take time to sort it out and return to normal,” said KSWCD board member Tyler Brown.
“And when it does, we’ll be ready,” said KSWCD vice chairman David Mitchem.
Clendening, Brown and Mitchem anticipate returning to normal levels in a few years, and said they hoped to see funding restored as the economy returns to strength.
As state matching funds for all counties’ soil conservation programs is slated for continuing reductions in the immediate future, Mitchem said a seven-year grant from the Ohio Division of Wildlife will help bridge the gap. The funds will allow KSWCD to help out wildlife enforcement by handling a number of nuisance animal complaints. The grant gradually lowers in amount from year to year, which the KSWCD hopes will dovetail with a return of traditional funding.
In other budget business, Matthew Kurtz, interim director of the Knox County Department of Job & Family Services, met briefly with the commissioners to confirm that earlier discussions regarding the 2010 budget were still applicable, thus finalizing their budget discussions for the year until the new budgets are set in January.