Newton County legislatorsConcerned residents should contact their legislator by Thursday on phone or e-mail.
Sen. John Douglas:
(404) 656-0503; email@example.com
Rep. Doug Holt:
(404) 656-0152; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. John Lunsford:
(404) 656-7573; email@example.com
Rep. Toney Collins:
(404) 656.0265; firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposed reductions to the University System of Georgia of approximately $300 million could mean the end of 4-H programs in Newton County and a reduction of roughly $9 million to Georgia Perimeter College.
The reductions would eliminate all 4-H programs throughout the state and would close five 4-H facilities, including Rock Eagle, and would close half of the county extension offices, eliminating 169 positions throughout the state — four in Newton County. If the extension office in Newton County were closed, it would also eliminate the ability for residents to do simple things, such as soil sampling, locally.
Part of the University of Georgia, which would see a cut of roughly $60 million (12.8 percent), extension agencies are targeted to take $11.6 million, or 33.3 percent, of their budget. While being only 7.6 percent of the total budget for UGA, it is proposed that 20 percent of the total cut would come from extension services.
"We’re the birthplace of 4-H," said Terri Kimble, 4-H Educator for the county. "It’s been in this county for 106 years."
Kimble said that there are probably 1,600 people involved in the program throughout the county and just two weeks ago 135 students gave oral presentations at Eastside High School.
Several fifth grade classes (all fifth grade classes at Oak Hill Elementary School) require their students to complete a 4-H project annually. According to fifth grade teacher Andrea Dowdy, skills 4-H teaches students are the same that are required in language arts for fifth-graders.
"4-H has a tremendous impact on molding our Oak Hill students to be better citizens," said Dowdy. "It teaches our students lifelong skills that carry them far beyond just sitting in a classroom. It builds their character, their creativity, their confidence and their integrity," she continued. "They also gain a sense of community through services such as volunteering and giving to the needy… I just don’t know what we would do without it. It’s a must. We need 4-H."
For Kimble, it’s also personal. 4-H isn’t just her job, it was something she grew up with in her family and a program that she was involved with as a child. She has witnessed the positive effects of the program on children first-hand.
"I started out as the shyest, nerdiest fifth-grader you’ve ever seen," she said. "I feel like 4-H changed my life and made me who I am… I got college scholarships from it… It gave me the confidence to go out and do things, it encouraged community service, the idea that wouldn’t be offered in Newton County scares me," she said.
According to Kimble, if passed, these proposals could go into effect almost immediately for 4-H.
The cuts at Georgia Perimeter College wouldn’t eliminate the school from Newton County, but it would increase the average class size, which according to a University System Board of Regents Budget Summary, could reduce academic quality due to an overload on faculty. The budget summary also suggested that since a big advantage of a two-year school is the individual attention offered students, this could cause a decrease in student success. The proposed cuts would also freeze 50 non-faculty positions, on top of the 60 GPC has already cut. The cuts in staff show themselves in the lack of services to students.
There is also a call for a reduction of certain academic programs such as ESL (English as a second language) and fire management, as well as the reduction of part-time, overtime and student assistant compensation, which would directly affect computer labs and tutoring centers.
Two furlough days have been proposed as has an increase in faculty workload, requiring instructors to teach additional classes. Lastly, the proposed budget wants GPC to reduce operating costs. Marketing, technology and other operating budgets have already been cut by approximately $400,000.
“At the moment these are proposed cuts," said Ryan Carruth, Executive Vice President for Financial and Administrative Affairs for GPC. " We don’t know the final numbers but a cut of this magnitude is devastating.”
According to State Representative Doug Holt, "The University System is actually an independent authority of the state, so while we in the legislature set the overall budget for them, all we do more or less is cut them a check, and they decide how the money will be used. We can't tell them specifically what to cut or not cut. What you've been hearing about comes from the fact that the Appropriations committees of the House and Senate requested that the University System lay out a proposal of how they would handle a cut to their budget. The Chancellor and Board of Regents came back with what they think should be cut first."