MILLERSBURG -- Hoping to better align, in a one-to-one ratio, state and local contributions to the annual budget, representatives of the Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District made their way to Columbus this past week.
"The state match has not kept up with local appropriations," according to District Program Administrator Michelle Wood, who spoke last week to the Holmes County commissioners, adding, "The goal was to keep them one-to-one."
She outlined to the commissioners the district's budget summary for 2012-2016. During that 5-year period, the county commissioners have provided a total of $876,000 to the district for operations. Conversely, the state provided only $655,522.
Other major funding sources include the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, which provided nearly $1.26 million in funding to the district between 2012 and 2016.
That said, for every 'state match' dollar, the local district has brought in $3.43 from other sources, according to Wood. Conversely, for every $1 appropriated by the county commissioners, a total of $2.32 comes in from other sources.
Over the past five years, the district's state match has averaged 75 percent of the county's appropriation, but that percentage is trending down based on the formula set by the conservation commission.
In 2016, the state match ($127,216) was 65 percent of what was appropriated by the county commissioners ($195,000), said Wood, noting, an additional $2 million is needed in the state budget to get SWCDs in all 88 counties to a one-to-one match.
"We want them to know we're an efficient way to fund conservation," she said.
Of the funding, nearly $1.3 million over the past five years has been paid in direct cost-share to farmers to implement best management practices, according to information supplied by Wood, which notes, as a general average, cost share covers approximately 50 percent of the BMP cost. In that case, farmers contributed an estimated $639,300 of their own funds to install BMPs, paying local contractors in most cases.
As with all over conservation districts, the goal of the Holmes SWCD "is to coordinate assistance from all available sources -- public and private, local, state and federal -- in an effort to develop locally-driven solutions to natural resource concerns," according to Wood's literature.
Year round, the local office works to reduce the impact on water quality from agricultural operations in Holmes County, reduce the impact of sedimentation to water bodies and increase awareness of conservation ideas.
The office coordinates more than 3,000-4,000 acres annually of aerial cover crop seeding. And, over five years, it has done so over 20,000 acres.
During that same five-year span, the office also has installed 14,000 linear feet of fencing, installed 3,120 feet of access road, installed 1,400 feet of pipeline for livestock watering, has 2,500 acres under nutrient management plans and has made more than 20,000 direct contacts through education and outreach programs.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.