4-H, MSU Extension facing the axe

Failure to pass “smallest tax” in county history could end youth program



GENESEE COUNTY — Buried on the backside of the last page of the ballot containing the proposals for the Nov. 6 general election, there’s a 0.02 mill tax to fund the Michigan State University Extension Services.

The five-year tax will provide the MSUES with $176,104 annually, assessing what is being called the “smallest tax” ever placed on a Genesee County ballot.

The millage would assess two cents on every $1,000 of taxable value, so property valued at $100,000 would cost the typical taxpayer $1 a year.

Deb Caryl, owner of D&S Farm in Davison Township, said without the tax, it is likely the 4-H program, which she has been involved with for more than 50 years, will likely be discontinued for area youth.

Also on the chopping block will be the

MSUES master gardener, nutrition, Edible

Flint and Seed programs.

Caryl said the concern for the 4-H is not just in selling the tax to voters, but its making sure they find the proposal on the lengthy ballot, which will be two pages, front and back.

“We’re afraid people won’t turn that last page over,” said Caryl. “It’s the very last item on the ballot and it’s the lowest millage ever put forth.”

She said she and many of the 4-H kids have been working non-stop to get the word out to the public about the ballot proposal.

Youth members have been making signs, passing out literature and addressing public forums to spread the word about the MSUES millage. They’ve done this all, she said, on their own time, using their own money.

The programs affected will vary, but the loss of 4-H will leave 4,000 children in Genesee County without a place to learn about farming and raising animals. It will also mean no master gardeners to help with beautification projects and community gardens, no nutrition programs for children, the discontinuation of the Seed Program (which supplies kids with seeds to plant) and the Edible Flint program, which helps feed the hungry.

Caryl said the proposal needs 100,000 votes in order to pass. If it fails, she said 4-H will likely only continue functioning until the end of this year, before it is disbanded.

She said she has looked at other options to keep the children learning about farming and animals, but said there won’t be a program anything like 4-H.

“The kids in my club are going down fighting,” said Caryl, who added the 4-H youth has even benefited from running their campaign supporting the millage because it has taught them about how local government works. “This is all that’s left for youth. These are youth helping the county, they aren’t destroying things — they don’t want to be destructive — they just want to learn how to handle animals.”

For more information about the ballot proposal or the MSUES program, call 810-244-8500 or visit www.msue.msu.edu. Or call Caryl at 810-730-8252.

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