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After hearing the audience's pleas, county board member Joe Lally proposes an amendment to the 2018 budget that would allocate more funding to the UW-Extension program.

JAKE EKDAHL/Star-Times

UW-Extension cuts in Juneau County will not be as deep as first thought.

In an 11 to 8 vote Nov. 7, the Juneau County Board amended the 2018 budget to reduce the funding cut to the UW-Extension program.

The amendment was proposed by county board member Joe Lally and seconded by Jack Jasinski. The amendment added $41,104 to the UW-Extension budget, about $23,000 of which would be diverted from the UW-Extension 2017 carryover from the previous year. The remainder came from and the contingency fund.

The 2018 budget for UW-Extension was consequently raised to $178,040, rather than the originally proposed $136,936, an increase of 30 percent. The amendment will allow funding for three UW-Extension agents rather than the expected two that would result from the cut.

Before Lally proposed the amendment, Juneau County locals and a UW-Extension official voiced their concern over the funding cut. Lally cited the speeches they gave as part of the reason for his decision.

Local business owner John Hamm organized support for the UW-Extension program through a Facebook group and gathered an estimate 600 petition signatures.

“We are only asking for continued funding,” Hamm said.

During his comments to the county board, Hamm pointed out that the UW-Extension programs help to educate individuals who later fill leadership positons.

“These leadership programs and competitions develop our county’s, state’s, and country’s future leaders,” he said. “Many of our county officers here were 4-H members.”

UW-Extension area director Jay Dampier, who oversees UW-Extension programs for Juneau, Adams, Waushara, Green Lake, and Marquette Counties, said if funding was cut to the proposed level, the pesticide applicator training program and tractor safety program would have to be eliminated, and the agriculture program would possibly be eliminated as well.

Dampier said the budget cut would result in cutting the number of UW-Extension agents in Juneau County from four to two.

Currently, there are three full-time UW extension agents for Juneau County. The fourth retired in September and has not been replaced.

Juneau County resident Lori Schmiege also made comments to the county board. Schmiege, who is blind, said “I need continuing education. There is nowhere else in this county I can get it.”

Other budget items saw cuts larger than UW-Extension’s. But in terms of percentage, UW-Extension’s cut was one of the largest.

In previous years, the state paid for 60 percent of UW-Extension agents’ salaries, while the counties paid the remaining 40 percent. But the University of Wisconsin’s nEXT Generation Project has changed that arrangement so rather than have counties pay for 40 percent of agents’ salaries, the county will now pay for 100 percent of services. This means the county will now pay for services instead of salary for the workers who provide services.

In terms of total cost, the change for Juneau County is relatively small. The proposed cut was large enough to compensate for the increase in cost several times over.

After the amendment to UW-Extension funding was passed, the county board voted unanimously to pass the 2018 county budget with the changes that had been made.

Other Business

The county board unanimously voted to renew the cooperative law enforcement program between Juneau County and the Ho Chunk Indian Nation.

The county board voted unanimously to increase pay for county staff by one percent in 2018, and by an additional one percent in 2019. Elected officials, limited term employees, and captains, lieutenants, detectives, and deputies in the sheriff’s department are exceptions to the increase.

Service fees for the sheriff’s department were increased in a unanimous vote by the county board.

Juneau County entered into a law suit with other counties against opioid manufacturers. County Board Chairman Alan Petersen emphasized the importance of the move.

“We take care of the people that are hurt by these opioid misuses,” Petersen said

The county board voted unanimously to pass a grant of about $44,000 for the sheriff’s department that would fund body cameras for deputies.

You can reach Jake Ekdahl on Twitter @JakeaEkdahl