Tag Archives: Budget

‘A great week to be in Extension’

Brenda Reau, Michigan State University Extension educator and associate director of the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio, shared that quote with me last Thursday, attributing it to Dr. Gordon Guyer, former director of MSU Extension (and president emeritus, MSU). The context was that on any given day, one of Dr. Guyer’s more famous comments was, “it’s a great day to be in Extension.” Well, I’d say his description captures the essence of this week for me.

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, Gov. Rick Snyder presented his budget recommendations for FY2015 to the Michigan Legislature. In it, he proposed to increase funding for higher education by an average of 6.1 percent, and he further specified that the funding for MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch should be increased by 6.1 percent. That represents a $3.4 million increase in funding for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch combined. Just one year ago, I was giddy about the governor proposing a 2 percent increase in our state appropriation, and eventually the legislature doubled that to 4 percent. Here we are one year later, starting with a 6.1 percent proposed increase, and if anything, that suggests to me that the work MSU Extension and AgBioResearch is doing in support of research and its application to agriculture, food safety and nutrition, community and natural resource development, and youth development is seen as being important and worthy of increased support. To me, this is a message that the work we have carried out to focus and improve our programs, to adopt technology as a tool to reach more people, and to be more accountable for what we do and what difference it makes is paying off. We’re heading in the right direction.

It’s fine to take a moment to relish this development, but this is no time to relax and rest on our laurels. Rather, this is a time when we need to continue improving our programs, following our work plans for the year and adapting technology to help us reach even more people in Michigan. It’s also a good time to share some good news with our stakeholders. And it’s a great time for our stakeholders to share their thoughts with decision makers about the programs they value and the impact our programs are having on their lives, their farms, their businesses, their communities and their families. County commissioners, state legislators and members of Congress all need to hear from their constituents about our programs. And the most effective messages they hear are ones that are not scripted, but rather are authentic and come from the experience of the constituents who are telling their stories.

Comments Off on ‘A great week to be in Extension’

Filed under Funding

Governor’s budget proposal recommends increase for higher education

Governor Rick Snyder released his proposed state government budget for fiscal year 2014 this morning. He has proposed increasing the state investment in higher education an average of 2 percent over last year’s appropriations and specifically proposed increasing funding for MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension by 2 percent. This is a welcome investment in our programs, and reflects an improvement from last year, when the executive budget did not propose any increase in our funding. The 3 percent budget increase that we did receive in the current fiscal year was a result of negotiations in the legislative process. So starting with a 2 percent increase instead of no increase in the first step of the appropriations process would seem to indicate that we stand a good chance of ending up with a budget increase by the end of the process.

One other facet of the governor’s budget presents further opportunities for faculty and staff in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch. The wording from the governor’s announcement follows:

The governor recommends $1 million general fund for a new Food and Agriculture Industry Growth Initiative focused on removing barriers and leveraging opportunities identified by food processors, agri-business, and those in agricultural production as critical to business development and growth. A competitive grant process will fund research, education, and technical assistance efforts. An advisory board, consisting of food and agriculture industry representatives, will identify criteria for grant funding. Grant recipients will be required to identify program outcomes and performance metrics. In addition, up to $2 million will be available in the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) budget to support eligible projects that meet the goals and mission of this initiative. MDARD will collaborate with MSF in identifying projects for funding.

This is a follow-up to the governor’s production agriculture summit held in August 2011. At the summit, he proposed four areas of focus that would help to grow Michigan’s food and agriculture-based economy: increasing the overall economic impact of food and agriculture, increasing the number of jobs in this sector, increasing the value of exports in this sector and strengthening the availability of nutritious food to all of Michigan’s residents.

The appropriation process now turns to the Michigan Legislature. In the past two years, the legislature has completed the appropriations process and the governor has signed the appropriations bills by the early part of June. I anticipate a similar schedule this year. I will join Dr. Steve Pueppke next Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittees for the House and the Senate, during which we will have an opportunity to provide an update of our research and extension programs and their impacts. We will also address questions legislators may have at the hearing as well.

Comments Off on Governor’s budget proposal recommends increase for higher education

Filed under Funding

Our state appropriation for FY 2013 is (nearly) set

I’m still adjusting to the notion of writing articles with this headline in June rather than in September or October. For the second year in a row, the Michigan Legislature has completed the appropriations process for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2012, by the first week of June. What a welcome change this has been!

 And unlike last year’s budget, in which we received a 15-percent reduction in funding, this time we’re targeted to receive a 3-percent budget increase in state funding. The size of the increase is welcome, but even more important is that it’s an INCREASE and not a DECREASE. It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to say that.

 The Conference Committee for the Omnibus Education Budget completed negotiations on the higher education portion of the budget last Thursday evening (May 31), and the House of Representatives quickly approved the compromise on June 1. The Michigan Senate provided their approval on Tuesday morning, June 5. So now all that remains is for the governor to sign the legislation, and then we will know for certain that our funding for next year will grow by 3 percent. There are some requirements in the legislation that call for us to report on outputs and impacts of our programs, which our new reporting system should help us to fulfill. This is right in line with our goal of providing greater accountability through our redesign process. And the increase is primarily targeted at development of a strategic initiative on growing food and agriculture sectors in the state’s economy, something that cuts across all four of our program institutes.

 As is always the case with a process like this, many people deserve credit and thanks for their roles in achieving this outcome. Within Michigan State University, many of you and other colleagues have helped to tell our story effectively to legislators. I’d like to highlight the role of Dr. Mike Kovacic, director of stakeholder relations for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, for his leadership in working with the MSU Governmental Affairs office and with legislative leaders and staff to address the concerns and questions that were raised throughout the process and to keep us all focused on the outcome we achieved. Given that we began the process with an Executive Budget proposal that had no increase for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch, coming out with a 3-percent increase is an outstanding achievement. Mike was our coach and captain in the campaign that produced this outcome. MSU vice president for governmental affairs Mark Burnham and his colleagues David Bertram and Monique Field also provided great assistance and guidance.

 Many legislators also deserve credit for their roles in this process. We especially benefited from Senators Tonya Schuitmaker, Howard Walker, Darwin Booher, Roger Kahn and John Moolenaar, and Representatives Chuck Moss, Al Pscholka and Amanda Price. They and other legislators deserve thanks and appreciation from our stakeholders who spoke out in support of our programs.

Comments Off on Our state appropriation for FY 2013 is (nearly) set

Filed under Budget

Shiawassee County restores MSU Extension funding

In last week’s Spotlight, I wrote about Michigan State University Extension Shiawassee County’s possible elimination through county budget cuts. I left you with the news that the Shiawassee County Finance and Budget Committee recommended restoring funding to last year’s amount of $35,036 and that the Shiawassee County Board would meet Nov. 10 – the day Spotlight was posted – to determine the fate of their county. I’m happy to report that the board voted unanimously to restore MSU Extension. The next step is to have the Memorandum of Agreement signed. Thank you to those who rallied around MSU Extension. It was wonderful to see the impact we’ve made in the county reflected in the heartfelt support of the people who have benefitted and grown through our organization. And it is always helpful for MSUE staff and faculty to share their appreciation to those who speak out in support of our programs. We have hundreds of people to thank in Shiawassee County.

Comments Off on Shiawassee County restores MSU Extension funding

Filed under Funding

MSU Extension supporters rally to save Shiawassee County Extension from cuts by county

A grassroots movement of Michigan State University Extension supporters are rallying together to support our programs in Shiawassee County. Outside the county building in Corunna, Nov. 7, about 500 of our advocates protested the possible elimination of MSU Extension programs through budget cuts.

 The proposed Shiawassee County budget called for zero dollars to be allocated to Extension. In other words, it called for our organization’s elimination in the county. MSU Extension’s budget was reduced by more than two-thirds in the 2010 budget year. MSU Extension requested $70,530 for 2012, which was still a reduction of 31 percent from the 2009 budget year. As of Nov. 7, the Shiawassee County Finance and Budget Committee recommended to restore funding to last year’s amount of approximately $35,036. The Shiawassee County Board meets today to vote on the budget and determine the fate of MSUE in their county.

 As is often the case, the threat of eliminating MSU Extension in a county has provided an opportunity to showcase the difference our programs make in a county, and District Coordinator Deanna East and MSUE staff in the Shiawassee County office have provided details to news outlets and decision makers to show those impacts. Yet the most compelling cases for support of MSUE come from those who directly benefit from our programs, and folks in Shiawassee County have been pretty vocal these past two weeks in letting their elected officials know how MSUE is important to them.

 I received an email from Jennifer Weichel, Extension educator, earlier this week, in praise of supporters.

 Jennifer said, “We have given these volunteers the life skills they need to fight this battle and the confidence to speak up for what they believe in. I know that this means MSUE staff past and present in Shiawassee County have done their jobs, built capacity, relationships and served as examples of how to make a difference in the community and be catalysts for change. I am proud of everyone who is standing up by calling commissioners, writing letters, making signs and gathering the facts to build their case. As staff members, we have provided the facts and allowed the volunteers to determine their course of action.”

 We appreciate the support from the community, the people we serve. It’s even more important for us to get the word out about the great things we do for the state and continue to do the things we do so well that make a difference in educating the public and improving lives.

 As Jennifer continued to say in her email, “The most important message I have heard is WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE, and they want us to continue being a part of their lives – not just one week of the year but every day and for generations to come.”

 Read more and view a video here.

 Supporters of MSU Extension 4-H have launched a “Save Shiawassee County 4-H” Facebook page. Check it out for photos and updated information.

Comments Off on MSU Extension supporters rally to save Shiawassee County Extension from cuts by county

Filed under Funding

Managing your operating budget

One of the changes that Michigan State University Extension staff members in county offices are facing this year is in how they manage and pay for their operating expenses, including travel costs, purchase of program-related materials, photocopying, cell phone fees and others. On Monday’s biweekly Director’s webinar, Annette Tijerina and Michelle Rodgers explained the process involved in obtaining a purchasing card that is tied to individual operating accounts. We will be providing online training opportunities for use of the purchasing cards and other procedures associated with managing individual operating accounts.

 One online resource is already available, from our Fall Extension Conference recordings. On Thursday, Oct. 20, Linda Huyck and the Finance, Housing and Energy work team provided a training session called “Budgeting (Not) for Dummies” on budget planning that is as relevant for operating accounts as it is for family financial management. I really liked the way Linda set the stage for the webinar by saying that with regards to budgets “you need to know where you’re headed” with your budget. In other words, if you have a fixed amount of money available for your operating account, it is important to prioritize the costs that are most important to cover and to understand the difference between your operating “needs” and operating “wants.” Linda provided an example of a spending plan for family budget management, and I imagine that some individuals may have already developed their versions of a spending plan for their operating accounts. If you have a model you’re willing to share, please share it on my blog.

 One of the unique challenges of a budget such as your operating budget is that it receives funding INTO the account once per year, not once every two weeks or once monthly like a family budget. So it’s not just a matter of planning a monthly budget, but rather a year-long budget, and then tracking it carefully to make sure the funds for “needs” in June are still available in June and the funds aren’t completely spent in January.

 We will have many other tools available to help learn how to manage these accounts, but I thought it was helpful to point to something already available from our colleagues to get started on the planning process.

Comments Off on Managing your operating budget

Filed under Budget

Federal budget agreement for 2011 nearly settled

The last-minute agreement between leaders in Congress and President Obama last Friday night avoided a government shutdown and finally settled negotiations on the budget for fiscal year 2011.  Yep, that’s the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.  Although it was good to know they reached an agreement, we didn’t really know the details and how they would affect our budgets until Tuesday this week. And the news was even better on Tuesday.  The core funding for Cooperative Extension that comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Budget is authorized under the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which established the national Cooperative Extension System.

In the budget settlement, Smith-Lever funding for this year is reduced by 1.2%.  That was great news in light of the version that had passed the House of Representatives in late February. In that version, our funding would have been reduced by 10%, which would have forced us to figure out how to reduce our budget by $900,000 with a handful of months left in the fiscal year. Instead, we have a much more manageable reduction to absorb, and we can accomplish that with the changes we’ve been implementing anyway.  Congress still needs to approve the deal, and that is expected to happen today or tomorrow.

Now our attention turns to the budget for FY 2012, and Congress is just getting started on that process. It will likely be as contentious as the FY 2011 budget process.  President Obama released his proposed budget back in February, and in that, the funding for Extension was targeted for a 5% reduction.  Given the politics of the budget, it’s likely the House will begin at 5% or an even larger cut in their proposed budget for FY 2012.  It’s doubtful that Congress and the President will come to agreement soon, and there’s a good chance we may end up in a similar circumstance to this year, with the budget decision put off until after the start of the fiscal year.  We’ll plan conservatively in that case so we aren’t caught with needing to make a significant budget cut well into the new year.

On the state front, the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed out their funding bill for 2012 yesterday, and accepted the 15% reduction Gov. Snyder had proposed for MSUE and AgBioResearch funding. They also accepted the combination of MSUE and Michigan AgBioResearch funding into one line. They tweaked the funding for MSU and the other universities, cutting them all by 14% and then distributing the other 1% reduction unevenly among the universities, with universities that have a higher per student appropriation (like MSU, University of Michigan, Wayne State) taking a larger share of the remaining 1% and other universities taking a lower share.  The Senate has not passed out their bill for higher education, but their subcommittee held a hearing yesterday at which MSU President Lou Anna Simon and Farm Bureau President Wayne Wood spoke in support of the combination of the two funding lines into one and announced a summit that will be held this summer to bring representatives of state government, agriculture industries and MSU together to identify key strategic priorities for research, extension and education for production agriculture in the years ahead.  With this in the plans, both presidents encouraged the Senators on the subcommittee to avoid being very specific in their prescription of how the funding should be allocated among the various programs for research and Extension.

There is still a series of votes that will be required before our state appropriation is settled for the next fiscal year, but the early movement of bills like the one from the House subcommittee yesterday is encouraging. Gov. Snyder continues to say he wants the budget settled by June 1, and legislative leaders continue to say they would like that but are more optimistic about getting it done by the end of June. Either circumstance would be a welcome change from the years in which we didn’t know our budgets until after Oct. 1.

Comments Off on Federal budget agreement for 2011 nearly settled

Filed under Budget