University of Tennessee Extension has begun implementing a new staffing plan to accommodate budget reductions of $5.4 million since 2008. As a result of the new plan, 48 agent and area specialist positions and 12 state specialist positions will be eliminated for a total reduction of 60 positions.

Preparations for the staffing plan have been under way for two years. Thanks to the support the state has provided through ARRA funds, UT Extension was able to accrue many vacancies through retirements and attrition. To implement the new plan, 19 individuals from across the state will be asked to transfer to vacant positions. The transfers are necessary to redistribute a smaller workforce and refill critical positions.

“We have made every effort to maintain a staffing level that will allow us to continue to carry out our mission and to minimize the impact on our staff and clientele,” Tim Cross, dean of Extension said. “We will work closely with those employees being transferred to support them in their transition.”

The plan eliminates 14 agent and two area specialist positions across each region of the state and nearly evenly across the Extension program areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H. After implementation, the organization’s western region will have 85 agents covering 31 counties, its central region will have 89 covering 31 counties, and its eastern region will have 87 agents covering 33 counties. No counties will be left without an agent; every county will have an agent to cover every program area.

“The university has faced its most financially challenging time in modern history,” explained Joe DiPietro, UT president and former chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture, of which Extension is one of four units. “I commend Dr. Cross, his leadership team and staff on the plan they developed to address this difficult challenge in preparation for stimulus funds to end June 30.”