The Adams County Commissioners unanimously agreed on Monday to lift the county hiring freeze and allow the Adams County Extension Board to fill a vacant Purdue Extension Service educator position.
However, Commissioner Doug Bauman told a large group from the extension system in the county that the extension board must "be really, really creative" and "do a sales job to the county council," which provides part of the pay for that educator and also establishes the county's budget every year.
The extension board let the health and human sciences (HHS) educator go early this year and the post is still vacant, with only two Purdue-associated educators on duty: Brad Kohlhagen in agriculture services and Amy Johnson in 4-H and youth services.
At Monday's meeting, Linda Aldridge of Huntington, the eastern district director of Purdue's extension system, told the commissioners that if two people are required to do the job of three people, there will be cutbacks in services provided.
There was talk of having Adams and Wells counties share an HHS educator, but Johnson said she spoke with Wells County extension personnel and was told that they are not interested in sharing because of Wells County's current staffing situation.
Aldridge said Grant County, where Marion is located, has a half-time HHS educator, but that's a much longer drive. She pointed out that Jay and Blackford counties share an HHS educator.
Aldridge informed the commissioners what the breakdown is of the almost $100,000 that Adams County contributes to the pay of the three extension educators: $56,870 for the 4-H/youth post and $21,480 each for the ag and HHS posts. Purdue adds more than $140,000 annually to the pay of those three, Aldridge added, so they share about $240,000 per year.
Aldridge further said the HHS position might be filled relatively soon, since Indiana's extension system is one of the few in the nation that's hiring, with Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois undergoing layoffs of similar extension staff.
There was also a suggestion to hire a part-time HHS educator instead of a fulltimer as a way to save money.
The county's fiscal problems were illustrated by Commissioner Ed Coil, who said that, in the past year, Adams County's revenue from the county economic development income tax (CEDIT) fell from $639,000 to $486,000 and revenue from the county option income tax (COIT) dropped from $1.9 million to $1.4 million.
In addition, said Coil, state officials say the state overpaid Adams County in COIT and CEDIT and may give the county less money than had been expected to make up for what was too much given in the past.
The county also pays $5,700 per year for the extension service office in Decatur to lease a computer.
Aldridge said Purdue plans to give its personnel around the state a one percent raise in 2012.
She said the aim of the extension service is to be "smarter and more efficient, with greater partnership."