MAYVILLE - The Chautauqua County 4-H program is exploring its financial future.
The local youth development organization, which lost all of its county funding this year, is looking into establishing an endowment fund through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
If sought, 4-H officials hope to raise $2 million by 2017 - enough cash to secure grants and sustain itself without reliance on the Chautauqua County Legislature.
"We are looking at our options right now," said Emily Kidd, local 4-H director. "We are waiting to see if we can secure donations and we want to see what the county will do first."
Kidd noted that 4-H primarily is "set up" through county taxpayer support. However, that financial support has waned in recent years - from as much as $100,000 in funding in 2007 down to $25,000 in 2011.
This year, the subsidy was eliminated altogether by the county in order to get under the state-imposed 2-percent tax cap.
The organization's primary source of income now is through fund-raisers. "We have to be proactive," Kidd said.
County Executive Greg Edwards, meanwhile, said he is pleased to see 4-H take a spirited approach at a time when program funding is limited in the county budget.
"Many organizations are in need of financial support," Edwards said in a news release, "and the county is required to send more and more of our local taxpayer dollars to Albany which prevents us from investing our local, proven programs that truly deliver for the people of our county.
"I applaud the 4-H leaders in working in this manner to make smart, effective decisions for their organization."
The endowment may end up being a last resort for the organization if county-based support cannot be secured. If established, 4-H would seek donations of $5,000 or more from the public and private sector.
"As you now, $2 million is a fairly large amount of money to raise," Kidd said. "We have reached out to some of the agricultural business for their interest. They have been fairly receptive."
Edwards, a "life-long supporter" of 4-H, said he would seek bridge funding in his budget for the endowment.
"I am encouraged by this effort and will assist the leaders of 4-H in their efforts to promote this endowment to all who are likely supporters of the children in our 4-H programs," he said. The county executive's tentative budget will be released before the legislature's Sept. 26 meeting.
Legislature Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, said if an endowment were sought, funding may be delayed for years. Cornell and Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, vocally have supported 4-H funding in the county budget.
"I stand by my commitment to provide county funding for this important program," Cornell said.