Concerns were expressed at the latest county commission meeting by Holly Gatzke, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Educator in Lincoln County, regarding a bill now in the Nevada Assembly and how it would likely affect funding for the extension service in the county.
She said AB 407 calls for splitting the extension department into north and south divisions. The north would be controlled out of UNR and the south out of UNLV.
Gatzke explained the numerous concerns and problems she foresees if the bill passes. “It would destabilize things so much,” she said and asked the commission board to send a letter to the legislature expressing opposition to passage of the bill.
She said in 2016, her office received just under $28,000 from the county, which allowed the extension office to receive $86,000 in federal funds. Plus, the workforce grant brought in $362,000, plus some other funds. She emphasized, “It is vitally important to get the federal grants. And the county funds are really critical also to make everything else work.”
If AB 407 were to be enacted, Lincoln would be in the south region with Nye and Clark Counties, administered out of UNLV. “This would also mean we would have two agencies to work through in everything we do statewide,” she said. “More red tape, more administration time, more levels of administration boards, etc.”
AB 407 would make UNLV have a representative on the administrative board in the south.
She foresees problems arising if the bill became law because, “With two extension systems in the Nevada, who decides where that statewide money goes to? Who decides who gets the one federal grant offered? Who gets what piece of the pie?”
Commissioner Varlin Higbee, not a fan of government expansion, voiced his opinion and said he believed the whole idea of AB 407 was driven by legislators from Clark County who just want more power in their hands. “About 87 percent of the entire state legislature is from Clark County,” he said, “and when they want something, they are going to get it.”
The language of the bill is quite vague in some areas, Gatzke said, “left wide open, and my fear is the battle between north and south is only going to escalate for the Extension program for the future. It seems to be an ongoing line of thinking to get more power back into Clark County.”
Gatzke said she has even heard in discussions, people from Clark County are saying that the north part of the state “has stolen money for Extension that should be coming to Clark County, and they want more control of it.” But at the same time, she noted, Clark County already has $13 million stored away in a leftover account.
Another concern, Gatzke told commissioners she has heard that some people appearing in legislative committee meetings in Carson City, “have been saying that Lincoln County is in favor of this bill, which is a falsehood. We are being misrepresented there, saying we are for something that we are not.”
This was the reason for bringing the request to the commissioners to write a letter to the legislature expressing opposition.
Many of the rural legislators, including Senator Pete Goicoechia, and some members of the Nevada Association of Counties, are opposed to the bill as well.
“It’s likely a battle waiting to happen,” she told commissioners. “The vagueness of the bill creates a lot of potential for problems ongoing with Extension.”
She mentioned if the bill were to be passed she has already heard of talk from at least one group in Las Vegas about just using most of the funding for colleges and institutions in the Las Vegas area, and allocating only small amounts to the other parts of the south region.
“This is creating a lot of uncertainty,” she said.