From WILL - News Headlines -

U of I Extension Cuts Mean Major Reorganization, Job Losses

More than 100 jobs will be cut from the University of Illinois Extension as a result of a large reorganization.

While initial budget figures called for more than $2 million in cuts, that figure increased to $7.6 million for the new fiscal year.

As it stands, the budget cuts will force the merger of several county offices, and the number of Extension units have been reduced from 70 to 27. And about 50 county extension director positions will be eliminated though layoffs and retirements.

Interim Associate Dean and Director Bob Hoeft said moving educators out of centers and into the counties should actually be a good thing. They specialize in areas like small farms, nutrition, and youth development in local 4-H programs.

Hoeft said while a number of the jobs cut were educator positions, he said no specific areas of expertise were targeted. He also noted that any counties that want to keep their extension office open could - but many will be operating only two to three days a week. He said in most cases, an office will remain open.

"The public spoke - the public said they wanted their offices," he said. "There are counties that said they don't need an office, and Douglas County is one example of that. Talking with elected officials, they've said that they had no real complaints, and it's worked real well."

Among the educator positions that were reduced, he says just six are left in agriculture, because few are needed anymore.

"We have a number of commercial ag people that come directly to campus," Hoeft said. "We also have 1,500 certified crop advisers in this state that are capable of giving sound, agronomic advice, and customers, the farmers of the state, go to them for that advice."

Hoeft said Extension will be relying more on electronic communication in the future since that is what younger generations demand.