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County Officials Express Concern Over Impact Of UW-Extension Cuts

Extension, Which Currently Has Staff In Every County Across The State, Faces $3.6M In Cuts


County officials voiced concerns Tuesday about the impact of a $3.6 million cut in funding for county programs provided by the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.

The cuts comes part of a larger $250 million funding setback the UW System absorbed in the latest budget. Initial estimates are that the UW-Extension’s share of the cuts would mean the elimination of 80 positions across the state. Currently, the UW-Extension has staff and offices in each of the state’s 72 counties.

During a Wisconsin Counties Association question-and-answer session with the UW-Extension dean in Madison, County Board Supervisor Mike Giese said Extension’s proposed plan to absorb the cuts violates the so-called “Wisconsin Idea.” The idea, featured in the UW’s mission statement, calls for the boundaries of the university to extend to the boundaries of the state.

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“From La Crosse County’s perspective, it looks like we could lose three or four agents,” said Giese. “And that doesn’t comport with your statement that we’re going to have more agents and the boundaries of the state are going to be well served.”

Extension Dean Richard Klemme, however, suggested it’s not as bad as it looks: “I don’t think the losses are going be quite what they appear to be,” he said.

Klemme said counties will still have access to community education, agriculture and nutrition agents — they may just to have to share them on a regional basis instead of having agents dedicated to each county.

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified Giese as La Crosse County administrator Steve O’Malley and attributed Giese comments to O’Malley. WPR regrets this error.