H-SANTA MARIA

May 13, 2013 9:18 PM by April Hansen, KSBY

Santa Barbara County's 4-H groups could lose funding

Santa Barbara County is facing a $10 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, so to get out of this hole, some programs may lose funding including 4-H programs.

If that happens, 4-H would no longer exist in Santa Barbara County and that means the county fair won't have 4-H exhibits or animal showings.

This program is funded by money from the University of California Cooperative Extension.

It's almost $153,000 and the county's 4-H groups get a portion of those funds to pay for things like insurance, so if the county decides not to include this in next year's budget it would be the end of 4-H for almost 900 kids.

Some people associate animal showing to 4-H.

But 4-H leader Heatyer Knowles says it's more than just showing animals.

"It's teaching them leadership skills, it's teaching them how to lead meetings, and it's teaching them citizenship and responsibility," said Knowles.

Heatyer has two daughters involved in 4-H.

For generations, her family has been a part of the program.

She is sad at the a possibility 4-H programs won't be around much longer in this in county.

"We were thinking we were going to continue to be funding at that level without question, but as we know now that's not the case," said Knowles.

As the county faces a $10.5 million budget deficit, the board of supervisors is considering all options.

"We have to set priorities and figure out what programs work and what programs don't," said Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.

Lavagnino says the 4-H funding has consistently dropped in the past few years.

"Taxpayers want their money spent wisely," said Lavagnino.

He says the board has to make up the budget losses somewhere and he hopes it doesn't include cutting funding for 4-H.

"I can't think of a better place to spend it than on our kids and teaching them about leadership and hard work," said Lavagnino.

Heatyer says if 4-H disappears, the community will also feel the loss.

"A lot of our animals sold at the fair go to the Santa Barbara county food bank and we volunteer for other nonprofits as well," said Knowles.

Knowles says the county's 4-H groups also apply for private funding every year to make up for the loss in money they get from the University of California Cooperate Extension, but she says without county funding they can't be affiliated with 4-H.

She also says 4-H members can't join 4-H clubs in other counties.

The board of supervisors will have its budget meetings on June 10th, 12th, and 14th in Santa Maria

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