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Vilas County Board Ends Their Portion Of UW-Extension Funding


The Vilas County Board of Supervisors voted 13-5 Tuesday to eliminate the county partnership with UW-EXTENSION indicating the finance and budget committee has deemed continued county funding of UW-EX services to be “non-essential” according to the resolution language.

The current contract calls for a 60 day notice of cancellation and that will be delivered to area Extension director Art Lersch. The resolution calls for UW Extension to fully fund the county portion of Extension programs for the remainder of 2020 and all future costs and Vilas County will provide their current courthouse office space at no cost.

County board chairman Ron DeBruyne indicated it was a financial issue. “In my opinion it's a financial issue - - they have been a partner for 106 years and are valuable but the cost is prohibitive to the county,” DeBruyne said.

The Vilas County tax rate is between the 2nd and 4th lowest of the 72 Wisconsin counties according to finance director Jason Hilger.

Not all supervisors agreed but were willing to sit down and discuss what UW-EX means to the county. “My understanding is we approve this resolution and then sit down and discuss how to move forward,” supervisor Carolyn Ritter said. “This is a way of saying we need to end what we have now and negotiate going forward.”

That was echoed by  Lersch, area UW-EX director from Merrill who said “we would like to move forward in some manner.”

Supervisor Walt Maciag wondered “what would be the objective of any discussion since I don't feel an objective has been identified.” And supervisor Tom Maulson felt “education is important and if it's been good or 106 years it should be good today” giving support for discussions.

Supervisor Holly Tomlanovich, a member of the finance committee that submitted the resolution, felt “it's not an issue of service but an issue of finance since we're facing a deficit and need to discuss a new contract with UW-EX.”

Supervisors voting to end the contract with UW-Extension were Marv Anderson, Michael Cady, Charles Hayes, Ron Kressin, Walt Maciag, Mary Rasmussen, Art Kunde, Carolyn Ritter, Greg Robotti, Holly Tomlanovich, Jay Verhulst, Pat Weber, and Ron DeBruyne.

Those voting against were Tom Mauson, Bob Hanson William Otterpohl, Jerry Burkett, and Mike Biszak. Absent were supervisors Vern Wiggenhauser, Al Bauman, and Dan Swiecichowski. 

UW-Extension agents are U-W faculty and not county employees.

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