The Columbia County Board of Supervisors is holding off, at least for a month, on taking a stand on the proposal to split the governance of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the rest of the University of Wisconsin System.

The proposal is directly relevant to Columbia County, and other Wisconsin counties, because it could affect the future of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, which is governed by the same Board of Regents that oversees the rest of the system.

The County Board's agriculture and land and water conservation committee had submitted a resolution to the full board, calling for a plan that would leave UW-Madison in the hands of the regents, but give it, and other UW System entities, the flexibility that proponents say were the reasons for seeking to place the UW-Madison under a governance system separate from the Board of Regents.

The proposal, whose proponents include UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin, is part of Gov. Scott Walker's proposed 2011-2013 biennial budget.

Members of the agriculture and land and water conservation committee recently expressed concern that, if the UW-Madison is no longer under the same governance system as the UW-Extension, the Extension's access to expertise from the UW-Madison, particularly in its College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its School of Human Ecology.

But Supervisor Neil Ford said Tuesday that he thinks the supervisors need more time to study the issue before taking a stand.

"This is a rather complicated and controversial issue," Ford said. "There are a thousand pieces of information that we have not had a chance to consider."

Ford distributed to supervisors a booklet containing opinion pieces, some of them previously published in various newspapers, most of which argued in favor of what's been called "the New Badger Partnership" - which would place the UW-Madison under a new, 21-member "public authority." The UW System has 13 four-year universities and 13 two-year colleges, plus the Extension.

Supervisor Fred Teitgen said Tuesday that he would like to know a little more about how other entities, including the Wisconsin Counties Association, stand on the issue.

In a story published Wednesday, the Wisconsin State Journal quoted lawmakers as saying it's unlikely that the Legislature would approve separate governance for the UW-Madison at this time.

Supervisors, however, may take up a resolution on the issue at their next regular meeting at 7 p.m. May 18.

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Big trials lead to overdraft

 It's not unusual for the Columbia County Board of Supervisors to vote, in April, to cover over-expenditures from various county departments during the previous year, in order to close out that year's books.

On Tuesday, however, the supervisors were asked to vote to cover only one 2010 overdraft - an amount that's a few cents short of $109,400, to cover some unbudgeted expenses in the clerk of court's office, related to two trials that entailed picking juries from other counties.

A Columbia County jury heard the Jefferson County case in October against Andrew Wirth, who was acquitted of first-degree intentional homicide but convicted of two counts of homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon. Wirth was accused of killing off-duty Oconomowoc Police Officer Jennifer Luick and her boyfriend, Gregg Peters, outside a Jefferson tavern.

In November, Curtis Forbes of Randolph stood trial before a jury drawn from Jefferson County, which convicted him in the March 1980 murder of 18-year-old Marilyn McIntyre.

The overdraft entailed transferring money from the county's general fund.

County Comptroller Lois Schepp said there were "a couple" of other county accounts that were overdrawn at the end of 2010, but all had revenues available to offset the overdraft.

County Board Chairman Robert Westby commended all the county's departments. "In these tough times, all our department heads did a great job to stay within the budget," he said.

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