The 2018-19 Yadkin County budget was passed on June 12 as presented. There were several speakers at the budget hearing who pleaded on behalf of the Family and Consumer Science position with the Yadkin County Cooperative Extension, which had been eliminated in the proposed new budget.
County Manager Lisa Hughes gave a detailed presentation on the budget prior to the public hearing. She said that goals the board looked at in preparation for the new budget were protecting the financial position of the county, reestablishing healthcare in Yadkin County, expanding water and sewer, developing a comprehensive economic development plan, continuing to fund Yadkin County Schools and Surry Community College, expanding parks and river access, reviewing county properties for improvements and measuring performance to ensure service effectiveness.
The new budget does not include a tax increase, maintaining the 66 cents per $100 valuation property tax rate.
Geraldine Brannon was among the county residents who spoke out at the hearing in regard to keeping the position of family and consumer science agent.
“The family and consumer science agent has played an important role in my life,” Brannon said. She spoke of her time in 4-H as a youth and many other areas that the cooperative extension’s agents have assisted her, including in her professional life.
Brannon said the family and consumer science agent had even done presentations for the Yadkin County Association of Office Professionals, of which Brannon served as president. The workshops allowed the group to maintain its accreditation with the state association, she said.
“This accreditation enabled us to maintain, and in some instances raise, our salary which we in turn probably spent in Yadkin County in restaurants and grocery stores, raising the sales tax,” Brannon said.
She also noted the many useful tips in canning and the importance of the yearly checks for pressure canners that the family and consumer science agent performed each year. She spoke of many times she had called the agent with questions on everything from canning to how to remove stains. She noted that while many young people use the computer now to find answers to these types of questions, not everyone has access to do so.
“It’s been my observation that people my age and older very often don’t have access to computers. If they do, they simply don’t have the skills to search for answers they need,” Brannon said.
Brent Hunter also addressed the importance of canning information as he and his family are planning to can and sell their homemade salsa.
He thanked the board for the work on preparing the budget and expressed pride in the new demonstration kitchen that is part of the Agriculture building, but said the loss of the family and consumer science agent will be to the detriment of the county, in particular small agriculture based farmers such as himself. He said he needs the help that can be provided by a trained family and consumer science agent to ensure he has proper labels and safe canning practices for the home-based business he wants to have.
“Y’all took a step forward with this kitchen, but I’m just asking you, please, don’t take two steps backwards by not hiring a new family and consumer science agent,” Hunter said.
Yadkin County Cooperative Extension livestock agent Phil Rucker added his voice to the plea to keep the position in the budget as well.
Longtime member of the Yadkin County Extension Homemakers, Donna Love, shared her thoughts on the topic, also. She held up a copy of the cookbook produced by the group in the late 1980s and spoke of all the ways the family and consumer science agent has helped her through the years, as well as families throughout the county.
She said in the wake of the current opioid crisis that has gripped the county, the need is even greater for someone with the skill set of the family and consumer science agent to teach young people the importance of healthy living and even basic skills such as budgeting. She referenced the use of the county seal on the cookbook and the symbolism of the rising sun, which stood for a new day in Yadkin County and the importance of preparing for the future.
“I think that is as true today as it was back in the 1980s and ‘90s when this was printed,” Love said.
After hearing their thoughts, Commissioner Gilbert Hemric made a motion to reinstate the position in the new budget. That motion was seconded by Commissioner Marion Welborn. The motion was defeated 3-2 by Commissioners Kevin Austin, David Moxley and Frank Zachary.
Despite the motion to reinstate the position failing, Austin promised that during the year there would be additional discussion and there could be a possible reinstatement the position at some point.
“Y’all brought up an awful lot of great stuff that has been done in the past, and we’re supportive of all that and we’re going to help find ways to make sure those things get done,” Austin said. “We’ll be talking more in the future, I promise you that.”
Also speaking at the hearing were Yadkin County Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Martin and Sheriff Ricky Oliver.
Both thanked the board for their efforts in creating the new budget and supporting their respective agencies. Martin noted that the new budget in regard to the school system will allow for some security updates at the middle schools and high schools in the county.
Oliver did ask that in the future for the board to consider salary increases for officers.
“In the current environment in law enforcement, there is a need,” Oliver said. “There is a shortage in qualified applicants, and because of that, it’s becoming much more competitive.”
Prior to the Economic Development Funds Appropriation hearing, which also took place, Bobby Todd, Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development director, addressed the board. He expressed his appreciation for the board’s continued support of economic issues and development in the county.
Todd noted that several incentive packages will be paid out in the next two years. He also noted the recent closing of the Parkdale plant in Boonville. While he expressed sadness at the closing of the plant, he said they were already in the process of finding potential new companies to fill the space.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.