Editor: Kudos to the Sun Gazette for its coverage over the years of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s (VCE) programs in Arlington and Alexandria. Sadly, the Arlington County Board has put those programs on the chopping block in its proposed budget for fiscal 2022.
The county government’s proposed $64,000 cut is directed to VCE staffing and, without that contribution, $148,500 in matching funds from Virginia Tech will be withheld.
Without staff, VCE programs cannot be carried out. Planning programs, managing programs and training volunteers are all dependent on staff expertise.
Yes, the County Board must find ways to cut the budget, but cutting the Extension’s programs is penny-wise and pound-foolish. The $64,000 reduction (50 percent of the current allocation) is an insignificant .004-percent saving to the County, but the impact is this:
• VCE returns $11.48 for every dollar that the County invests, through matching funds from the state, grants and other revenue sources. Plus, VCE volunteers contribute 40,000 hours annually, valued at more than $1.2 million.
• Master Gardener Volunteers are widely-known, and the cuts would drastically impact that program. VCE also oversees Master Food Volunteers, Energy Masters, Master Financial Volunteers, Master Naturalists, and 4-H Volunteers. Together, they produce more than 40,000 volunteer hours to provide programs of value to thousands of Arlington residents.
• Among many other programs, 430 kids and every Title I school would lose their 4-H Clubs. Seniors would lose cooking demonstrations. Gardeners would lose access to free seeds, evidence-based advice, soil testing and plant clinics. Residents at affordable-housing properties would lose access to no-cost financial coaching. Hundreds of volunteers, including many retirees, would lose an invaluable social network and sense of purpose.
Now tell me, is eliminating all that worth $64,000?
Many people are protesting this through letters and e-mails. Are you listening, County Board?
Claudia Sturges Scott, Arlington