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Lee Co commissioners discuss Lee Co. Extension budget


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Lee Co commissioners discuss Lee Co. Extension budget

By Fox 4 News Staff. CREATED Sep 4, 2013

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - It was a packed house at the Lee County Commission Chambers as dozens showed up to oppose budget cuts to Lee County Extention Services.

Officials say it will mostly come down to the elimination of two positions and shifting maintenance costs. Changes they so most members won't feel.

Lee County master gardeners, canners and beekeepers turned out to rally before county commissioners.

Orange shirts were a reminder of their dedication to areas like farming and raising livestock.

"Because of the Lee County 4-H program youth leaders are emerging," said a member of the 4-H Trailblazers during public comment. 

"Cutting the extension will cost the county more in the long run, in dollars, as well as alienating the hundreds of volunteers," said another member. 

Hundreds packed the commission chambers to oppose the plan to slash services and eliminate positions. The new budget for next year is $125,000. About a 33 percent cut from last year. 

Teens at the meeting say they rely on the 4-H program. 

"It's a place where everyone gets to meet," said Karissa Talcott, of hte program. "Its not too far from home not too far from school."

Karissa's friend, Rhiannon Smith, added, "I learned how to do bee keeping there. I learned to sew, so many things."

If approved, costs for things like building maintenance and supplies would be absorbed by Lee County Parks and Recreation. 

"I understand the extension services and the values they provide so were going to see what we can do," said commissioner John Manning.

Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said, "I support the services but i also have a responsibility to have a balanced budget in Lee County."

Many hope commissioners find a balance. Just not at their expense. 

"We're going to be very worried," said Martha Grattan, with the Nature Plant Society. "But we're going to be very busy too because we're going to be pushing to help them see how important this really is."

The final budget hearing is September 18. That's when commissioners are expected to vote on it.