Cooperative Extension Service Budget Reduction Task Force Report

Submitted to the college administrators on May 26, 1997

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

The Cooperative Extension Service Budget Reduction Task Force, including the Director's Advisory Committee and the Extension Administrative Cabinet, convened on April 24, 1997 to discuss recommendations to alleviate the budget shortfall brought about by the 3% state budget reduction and the salary increases mandated by the administration of New Mexico State University. The meeting was facilitated by Steve Loring, Agricultural Experiment Station Administrative Analyst, and Ron Gurley, College Development Officer. The discussion focused on three areas: 1) criteria to evaluate vacant positions, 2) actions that would reduce budget expenditures, and 3) identification of future sources of new or additional funding and means of image improvement. Those present were randomly divided into two sub-groups in order to facilitate input by everyone. At the conclusion of the session, all comments were shared.

The criteria for evaluating vacant positions are basic questions in four clusters: mission, fiscal viability, political viability and programmatic viability. The criteria are not weighted, nor are they in priority order. The questions are recommended decision making tools for reaching a conclusion regarding whether or not to refill one vacant position over another.

The recommended actions to reduce budget expenditures are grouped as items which may have an immediate financial savings and those financial/management considerations which would have an impact in the future. The actions with an immediate impact deal with activities such as meetings and operations. Actions with a long term impact include different personnel and staffing patterns, funding alternatives, and enhanced marketing and image for the organization.

The third area of discussion, sources of new or additional funding and image improvement, is primarily covered in the previous section on budget actions.

The tone of the meeting was serious and collaborative. Individuals contributed ideas that included looking at the organization in a new and different way. The ideas represented here are an interpretive summary and do not necessarily represent the opinion of everyone in the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service. The ideas are also not expressed in any priority order.

Criteria to Evaluate Vacant Positions

The budget shortfall will not sustain the same level of full-time equivalents that the organization is now supporting. Since a number of regular county and state positions are currently vacant, and there will undoubtedly be other vacancies in the future, recommended criteria for assessing each vacancy and determining when and if the position will be filled, will assist in the decision making process. The criteria recommended by the task force were grouped into four clusters: mission - how does the position relate to the mission of the organization, fiscal viability - financial considerations in relation to the position, political viability - what kind of support is there for the position, and programmatic viability - how essential is the position in relation to the programs of the organization.

  • Is the position essential to the overall mission of the Cooperative Extension Service?
  • Does the position fit within the College strategic plan?
  • What is the impact on the entire NMCES system if the position is filled or remains vacant?
Fiscal Viability:
  • To what extent is the position supported by special funding?
  • What would happen to special funding if the position was not filled?
  • What potential special funding can the position generate and bring to the organization for either a) on-going programs or b) new programs?
  • If a county position, is the county both willing and able to support a program financially?
  • What are the real financial benefits of not filling the position? (Dollars saved)
  • What are the real financial costs associated with filling the position?
Political Viability:
  • What external influentials (elected officials or others) are concerned about the position?
  • What are the pros and cons of yielding to the wishes of influentials?
  • What community support is there for the position?
  • Does the community view filling the position as a priority to meet grassroots program needs?
Programmatic Viability:
  • Is the position an essential programmatic position?
  • How does the position contribute to the diversity of programs or personnel for the department or unit?
  • If the position is filled/not filled what will be the programmatic profile for the department or unit?
  • If the position is not filled, will other programs have to be shut down due to lack of administrative leadership?
  • If the position is not filled, what is the impact on supporting and accomplishing national initiatives in New Mexico?
  • What will be the long-term impact on programs and/or funding if the position is not filled?
  • What technical (subject matter) expertise is required for the position, and how long will it take to fill it?
  • Can temporary or contract employees fill the position?
  • What are the programmatic costs of not filling the position? (e.g. decreased 4-H or FCE enrollment, loss of a specially funded program)
  • How will the educational needs of communities or commodity groups be served if the position is not filled?
  • If a county position, will a vacancy mean no professional Cooperative Extension Service faculty in the county?
  • How does the subject matter supported by the position, contribute to the state or regional economy?
  • Does the position support a unique need and what is its impact on an area of the state?

Recommended Actions with Immediate Financial Impacts

As each sub-group of the task force brain-stormed recommendations to reduce budget expenditures, the ideas logically fell into two groupings: those actions which would have an immediate budgetary impact, and those actions which have a long-term impact. The following actions are recommended as having a more immediate impact.

  • Explore more efficient ways to conduct various meetings.
  • Reduce the number of meetings that require travel.
  • Consolidate Civil Rights reviews. (Bring faculty and staff from more than one county together to conduct review.)
  • Hold the All-College Conference bi-annually instead of annually.
  • Limit out-of-state travel.
  • Improve operation efficiencies. (e.g. use the most efficient service contracts, telephone contracts, or purchase of paper and other office supplies.)
  • Charge for services to other agencies and clientele.
  • Have each department or unit take their fair share of the reduction and decide internally how they will implement that reduction.
  • Have a zero-percent across-the-board payraise.

Recommended Actions with Long-term Financial Impacts

Other recommendations with a more long term financial effect included personnel and funding actions which require more discussion and planning in order to have an impact on the budget situation. The following recommendations were discussed:

  • Use "super-agents" to fill some specialists positions. (e.g. livestock specialist)
  • Develop partnerships across state lines for some specialties.
  • Examine realignment or reassignment of county and state faculty for better coverage across the state.
  • Examine all costs (financial and intangible) regarding temporary or contract employees, and soft-money positions.
  • Buy out personnel approaching retirement.
  • Fill all vacancies and reduce services to match budgets through furloughs, reduced hours, flex time, etc. Allow time off in lieu of pay raise.
  • Combine some programmatic functions across county lines.
  • Develop a formula for filling positions that is consistent and equitable.
  • Use selective contract employment to fill certain needs.
  • Use county staff or Agricultural Experiment Station faculty to develop publications.
  • Allow for more flexible position management, including re-location or reassignment of duties. All positions designated to be filled should be filled aggressively and quickly.
  • Fill the Deputy Director administrative position, but have specific responsibilities spelled out that enhance the position and mission of the Cooperative Extension Service in New Mexico.
  • Develop a long-term plan for the worst case scenario, but also use a short-term plan to deal with immediate needs.
  • Investigate program or special needs funding from other agencies.
  • Develop new partnerships at the local level. (e.g. city government, 2-year colleges, etc.)
  • Do not use soft money for hard money positions.
  • Explore alternative budget scenarios and the way in which Cooperative Extension Service is represented at the legislature. For example, as an integral part of the NMSU budget with lobbying directed from the NMSU Administration or can Cooperative Extension Service be removed from the Higher Education budget so that it stands alone.
Marketing & Image:
  • Conduct an aggressive marketing campaign for the Cooperative Extension Service and the College. (Bond Issue B style)
  • Emphasize Extension Support Council and local advisory committees. (Bond Issue B style)
  • Review and redefine the Extension Support Council as an organization and include program priority setting input and advice for the Cooperative Extension Service. Empower the group to give more programmatic input. Priorities should be set from the bottom up, not just from the top down; this will give needed "buy in" and "ownership" by the Extension Support Council.
  • Diversify our political support base so that we are not going back to the same people for support all the time.
  • Be proactive with legislators. Educate legislators year-round about Cooperative Extension Service and program needs.
  • Develop regular, consistent contact (education) with the Governor's Cabinet Secretaries.
  • Conduct training for all faculty on marketing the program to political entities. Coordinate contacts and clarify what political contact faculty can and cannot have.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the College's lobbying efforts.

Future Funding Sources and Image Improvement

Some of the discussion regarding recommended actions with immediate and long term financial impact also included ideas related to future funding sources and image improvement. Additional ideas are expressed below.

  • Ensure Cooperative Extension Service representation at key meetings by the Deputy Director.
  • Obtain private money for fund raising campaign.
  • Develop consistent and aggressive year-round contact with the Governor's Cabinet to educate them about the Cooperative Extension Service and the College.
  • Inform our clientele of financial cuts and what this means in terms of the local Cooperative Extension Service program.
  • Cooperate with other agricultural lobbies to help convey our needs to legislators (but be careful not to be perceived as whining.)
  • Identify key constituencies state-wide. Develop a state-wide plan for contacting them and keeping them informed. Make assignments of contacts to insure that things are done. Identify and develop new audiences.
  • Make more use of publicity -- get agricultural information to local news media so that local populations will know what we have been doing for them lately.