RIO RANCHO, N.M. — With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting our economy, Sandoval County is faced with cutting or reducing funding in contracts.
On Thursday evening at the Sandoval County Commission meeting, commissioners approved reduction in funding to the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service by 30 percent for each contract.
The vote passed 3:1 with Jay Block, District 4, voting no, and Kenneth Eichwald, District 5, unable to attend the meeting.
With this 30 percent cut, the extension service will receive $60,979 from the county to help fund education and skills in agriculture, home economics, health and nutrition, and horticulture. This includes funding for 4-H, a youth program teaching skills from agriculture to cooking.
The program participates in the county fair, which has been canceled due to the pandemic. The extension service is unable to provide the same experiences, having canceled many activities through Aug. 8, according to the meeting agenda.
The extension service will also receive $28,592 for the canning center in Jemez Valley, providing nutritional food preservation education, according to the contract with the county.
“These cuts hurt across the entire county budget, and you are going to hurt people wherever, but we have already gotten rid of the summer youth employment program; that’s gone. We have already gotten rid of the county fair; that’s gone. This is a tough pill to swallow here for the extension service,” Block said.
Sandoval County spokesman Stephen Montoya said the 30 percent reduction in funding will take effect in August.
In September, commissioners will revisit the funding to see if there is any room in the budget to increase funding to the extension service.
“There are a lot of young people in this program, and I hate to see it cut,” Block said.
Chairman David Heil, District 4, said last year there was a buffer of $600,000 in the budget; this year there is less than $100,000.
“And this is a guesstimate — this isn’t a perfect estimate of what we are having to deal with,” he said.
Heil said the county is projecting a $3 million reduction in property taxes.
The county will not receive $540,000 in funding from the Healthcare Career Advancement Program, he said.
About $650,000 from the landfill will be going into the reserve fund, not the general, he said.
The combined total of funding not being added to the general fund is about $4.2 million, Heil said.
“Now let’s talk about our reserves. We have about $6 million in reserves. That is 3/12 of the general fund — that is a requirement by the DFA (state Department of Finance and Administration) — you can’t just take the money out of the reserves and move it to the general fund,” he said.
To move money from the reserves, it has to be approved by the DFA, Heil said.
“I understand that we have been awarded the COPS grant (Community Oriented Policing Services) and it is going to take another $260,000 to provide all the equipment for the cops. That is not in this budget,” he said.
Heil said the county is looking for a way to fund the $260,000.
“So this is the background we are having this conversation in. Nobody wants to do this with the extension service. But if you don’t do it here, you are going to take it from someplace else,” he said.
The next Sandoval County Commission meeting will be at 4 p.m. July 9. To submit a public comment, visit sandovalcountynm.gov.