4/13/2007 2:39:00 PM Editorial Don't forget the Extension issue in Tuesday's vote
No one likes to see their taxes raised, even a little bit. But the referendum seeking to continue local support for University of Illinois Extension programs in Crawford County is long overdue.
Extension has essentially been operating on 1970 dollars for the past 36 years here, since local tax support of the service was first approved. The problem, of course, is that 1970 dollars aren't worth much more these days than your 1970 wardrobe. And operating costs have continued to increase while local support has stayed the same.
The increase being asked for is minuscule - amounting to an increase of no more than $3 per year on a $50,000 home - but the benefits of continuing and improving Extension programs in Crawford County are enormous.
It's likely that we take the services that Extension provides for granted. But the education, recreation and employment opportunities it provides for local residents would be sorely missed if a continued funding shortfall forces cutbacks.
Each year, more than 3,300 Crawford County residents directly benefit from their participation in Extension programs including 4-H, family nutrition programs, HEA lessons, Master Gardeners, agriculture workshops and other programs.
But possibly Extension's biggest recent success story is its Grant Resource Center, which has written 24 successful grants totaling more than $1 million in just three and a half years. Those grants have had a county-wide impact, in many ways.
And Extension's involvement in laying the groundwork for the LincolnLand Agri-Energy ethanol plant was crucial in helping bring 38 new jobs, and helping make Crawford County a player in one of today's hottest industries.
One of the best things about Extension's service to the county is that though it is a U of I program, a local council provides local control and oversight of programs, making sure they fit the county's needs. While we see our opportunities to have a say in how our tax dollars spent slipping away every day, this feature alone is worth a lot.
Voter apathy and low election turnouts often make it hard to get referenda passed - even those, like this one, that seem to be clearly worth voters' support. So it's important that if you appreciate what Extension does in Crawford County, you make it to the polls Tuesday and make your voice heard.