Conservation district hoping for full funding
by Dennis Sharkey
Times and budgets are getting tougher for all agencies and the Jefferson County Conservation District is no different.
Board President Becky Wise met with Jefferson County Commissioners on Monday to give an annual update and to request funding for the next fiscal year.
Wise said in the last couple of years the district has dipped into reserve funds to keep up. She said in the past many not-for-profits would give to the district and those monies were put into CDs for savings for when times changed.
“Those things have changed,” Wise said. “We probably wouldn’t have been operating if we didn’t have those CDs.”
This year some reserves were turned into cash to purchase a new drill for the county. Board member John Wunder, who is also the vice chair of the State Conservation Commission, said the district has been trying to save money for the last five years to purchase a drill but the demand for use dictated the purchase.
“We were seeing a lot of increase so we wanted to make sure we had a drill here for our residents,” Wunder said. “We thought it was kind of important.”
The district has also been going through a lot of changes with new staff members coming on board for longtime members who have retired or moved on. Wunder said the district has been fortunate over time.
“We’ve had some good leaders here,” Wunder said. “There’s been a lot of work done in Jefferson County and obviously there is more to do.”
Wise told commissioners that many of the district’s board members are second and third generation. She said members are very conservative with spending.
“We’re awfully proud of the wise use of the funds,” Wise said.
Wise is also a real estate agent locally and said a positive sign is that young people are moving into Jefferson County to work with agriculture.
The district not only helps with cost share projects but many of the resources are dedicated to education. Wunder said many of the young people moving into the area have little or no experience with land use.
“It’s also providing a source of information,” Wunder said.
Wunder told commissioners that the district has appreciated the funding support from the county. He said not all districts receive full support from their local commissioners.
In the last three years state funding matches have declined. Wunder said the maximum match has decreased from $25,000 to $24,240 and he doesn’t see the situation improving.
“I’m afraid we’re going to come through some tougher times than we have now,” Wunder said.
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