Friday, January 28, 2011

University of Tennessee cuts 60 extension positions

We first reported on extension services being cut due to the recession in May 2009. The University of Tennessee is rolling out permanent cuts 60 extension agents and specialists. "All of the cuts were achieved over the past two years through attrition and retirement incentives funded with federal stimulus money," Megan Boehnke of the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports. "Stimulus funds also provided for some of those retirees to continue working part time to fill in the gaps. The money - and nearly all of the part-time positions - will end on July 1."

The extension service will shuffle remaining agents to cover counties where retirement or attrition left too many vacancies. "The cuts reflect a 15 percent drop in the number of agents and specialists in the state, a figure that has dwindled to 261," Boehnke writes. "All 95 counties will continue to operate an office, and each office will staff between one and four agents." Dean of Extension Tim Cross said the cuts meant offices would have to "soften county lines" and work together.

"It's going to be painful and there's aspects of this we won't flesh out the details of until we determine where everyone will be located and then we'll have new plans of work for those offices," he told Boehnke. Agents will likely work with neighboring counties for joint programs, and will have to prioritize the programs they think are most effective, Boehnke writes. Agents will likely offer more information online to help make up for the staff losses. (Read more)

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