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November 20, 2009

November 20 message

Good Afternoon: I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy the great weather. Extension Climatologist Mark Seeley says it will change in time for Thanksgiving. A few things to share this week:

Revised EEO Statements: A reminder that the required statements that must appear on University of Minnesota print and on-line publications have been revised. Details are available at https://myextension.umn.edu/cpr/productiontools/requiredstatements/index.htm

University and County Holiday schedules: In the past I have discussed holiday schedules in this weekly message. Let me re-visit that discussion in this week's message.

As part of our employment we are entitled to a number of paid holidays. For University employees , (including Program Coordinators, NEA's and Local Educators), there are 11 paid Holidays, (New Years Day, MLK day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas day, plus two designated floating and one undesignated floating Holiday. The designated floaters this year are Thursday, December 24, 2009 and March 19, 2010.

County employees, (including County Extension Support staff), may have a holiday schedule that differs from the University holiday schedule. This difference also affects office open hours. For example, some counties in our region include Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day and Good Friday as Holidays. Some counties do not have the Friday after Thanksgiving as a holiday and may not have designated or undesignated floating Holidays.

Several questions arise when staff in the same county office have different paid holiday benefits. These questions can be resolved with good communication in the office and with the involvement of the appropriate supervisor. Several options are possible. One option is that assuming supervisor approval, the PC or NEA may be following the University Holiday schedule. This could result in the University employee working on a day when the county office is closed. Some supervisors may advise against this practice for safety and accountability reasons. Another option is for the University employees to follow the County schedule. In this case, the total number of paid holidays observed cannot exceed 11 and also means that the PC and NEA may be working on a day that is an observed University Holiday such as one of the designated holidays.

Another complication is when a County and / or University holiday fall on a non work day for those offices and staff that are less than full time. For example, this year the day following Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day all fall on a day that some of our offices are closed, (Friday). In this situation, staff takes their holiday on a different day. My expectation is that staff in the County office communicate among themselves to coordinate the holiday switch so all the staff do not take their holiday on a day when the County, University and our public expects the local office to be open. I would ask that the support staff take the lead on these coordination conversations and communicate with me any conflicts that result in an office closure. If the office is closed on a normal business day, Support Staff need to let me know well in advance.

27th Pay Periods in 2010. The University and some counties follow a 26 pay period year. Since there is actually 365.24 days in a calendar year, once every 11 years there is an "extra" pay period. That will happen in 2010. Instead of just giving us and extra pay check, the employers will pro rate our yearly salary over 27 pay periods. The total for the year will remain the same. Please refer to the https://myextension.umn.edu/hr/Payroll_and_Timekeeping/EXT_CONTENT_144695.html for more details.

Have a good weekend,

Bob

November 11, 2009

November 11 messsage

Good Afternoon: This week's blog message comes a few days earlier than normal. A few things to share this week:

Minnesota Farm Assistance Network: Ag Business Management Extension Educator has requested the following information be shared with you:


In today's issue of AgriNews there is an article announcing the availability of MFANS or the MN Farmers Assistance Network. It is a cooperative effort between Extension and the MN Dept. of Ag. Volunteers have been solicited and will be trained to assist farm families who are experiencing financial difficulties as well as determining if additional resources are needed for such things as counseling, personal issues, etc.

The phone number for MFANS is 1-877-898-6326 outstate and 651-201-6326 in the Twin City area. The phone will be answered 8AM to 4:30PM Monday thru Friday (not yet clear about weekends or holidays). There is an e-mail address as well: mfan.mda@state.mn.us.

I send this to all of you thinking it might be a good idea to inform everyone in your office in the event a farm family calls. Any help you can give will be much appreciated.


Handling Consumer Horticulture calls:
From Julie Weisenhorn Master Gardener Blog:

ALERT: UMN Yard & Garden Phone Line to be Discontinued
The Yard & Garden Phone Line (UMN - NOT the Arboretum line) will be discontinued as of Dec. 1, 2009. Use of this system has dwindled as we re-direct people to the Arboretum phone line, the web, eXtension's Ask A Master Gardener, and Master Gardener hotlines and events. It is also old technology / software and the company that supported it has long been out of business. We have been limping it along until we felt we had an option for people, especially those without Master Gardener hotlines. That option is the Arboretum phone line: 952-443-1426. Callers to the old UMN Yard & Garden line will be re-directed to the Arboretum line, eXtension Ask A Master Gardener, and Gardening Information where they can click on "County Y&G Lines" and find a phone number for their specific county, if available

Julie also shared the following resources used by staff at the Univeristy of Minnesota Arboretum when responding to consumer calls. These resources may be useful to you in the County and Regional Offices as our public use our offices to access University reources.
New Email Message at the Arboretum
The staff at the Arboretum receive emails with horticulture questions throughout the year. In the past, the staff sent standard email response that was OK, but we thought it could be better. I wanted to share it with you because YOU might actually find this information helpful!This is the new standard email response from the Arboretum staff for horticulture questions:
Thank you for contacting the MN Landscape Arboretum. To serve you better, a number of online resources are available for immediate assistance:
• A one-stop shop for all your gardening questions, go to UMN Extension Gardening Information at http://www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo
• Sources for seeds and plants, go to MN Landscape Arboretum Plant Information Online at http://www.plantinfo.umn.edu
• For expert assistance from University of Minnesota Master Gardeners:
• - in person: Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. at the Arboretum
• - by email, visit http://www.extension.org/ask
• - by phone, call the Arboretum Yard & Garden Help Desk at 952-443-1426

Have a good rest of the week,

Bob

November 6, 2009

November 5 Message

Good Afternoon: I hope you have all had a good week.

Extension Committee meetings: Next week, (the week of Nov 9th), Kandiyohi, Chippewa, Lincoln and Yellow Medicine Extension Committees meet. The Redwood Extension Committee meeting scheduled for last night, (November 5) was postponed due to nice weather. A number of the Committee members needed to be in the field.

County Budgets. This is the time of year that we should project the close out of the budget year. I would ask that you look at your current budget, plug in the anticipated expenses, (such as salaries, telecommunications, MOA billing, etc), and project the year end remaining budget balance. With that information, we can have the discussion of any purchases are new expenditures prior to the budget cut off.

Holiday: Many County Offices are closed Wednesday, November 11 in observance of Veterans Day. November 11 is not a Holiday for University employees of offices, so the Regional Extension offices are open, Wednesday, November 11.

Enjoy the nice weather

Bob