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Jim Tait 02/01-02/28/17

home : news : oneida county August 23, 2017

8/11/2017 7:29:00 AM
Conservation and UW-Extension Education committee calls special meeting
Extension reorganization may result in reduced services

Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

The Oneida County Conservation and UW-Extension Education committee is getting down to brass tacks as it prepares for the upcoming reorganization of the UW-Extension system.

The committee got its first look last week at what the system will look like and this week the panel voted to schedule a special meeting to make decisions about services and programs.

With the new system, costs per employee was averaged across all 72 counties in the state.

On the surface, this would mean a budget increase of approximately $30,000 to keep the same services and programs in the UW-Extension office in Oneida County.

On Monday, the committee continued its discussion from last month as to how to adjust to this new restructuring.

There will be area specialists available, as was discussed at last month's meeting. Those positions will be paid by the state rather than the county and would serve a several-county area.

At this time, however, it is uncertain what services would be provided by the specialists, as those positions are not yet set up.

There was a great deal of discussion regarding how to approach this situation, which is rife with uncertainty.

It is unlikely, said chairman Bob Mott, the county will somehow find an extra $30,000 to put into the budget. With that being said, some difficult decisions may have to be made regarding what services to keep, what services may be picked up by an area specialist and what the county may wind up doing without.

"So we have to take the people out of it," said supervisor Robb Jensen. "We don't know any of them. We would identify those services we feel are important for Oneida County. We prioritize them. And then we would give that, we'd give you a budget amount. These are the services you get for that amount."

Steve Nelson, who is the area extension director responsible for a four-county area including Oneida County, said other counties have moved their people around and reworked positions.

"So now Vilas County has locked in their budget," Nelson said. "They are basically at the same amount as they (were) last time and so, to do that, they've got a full-time youth development educator, a one-third time family living educator and cut their CNRED position by 50 percent. So rather than 2.33 full time equivalents, they are down to 1.83."

The situation in Florence County is similar, he said. The county will keep a 70 percent time youth development director a 3 percent time family living educator and they are dropping their CNRED position from 70 percent to 50 percent.

"I think these decisions, I mean, it's pretty clear there's not going to be more money coming in magically," Mott said. "In all likelihood, the county's not going to say, well, here's $30,000 more. We can certainly ask. That can be our first step, but money is always tight."

Mott asked that each Extension employee create a list of their duties and outline how much time is spent on each of the services. From there the committee will decide how to proceed.

"We have to look at what all of your duties are," Mott said. "From there we will have to decide what we want to keep, what is most important."

The committee then scheduled a special meeting to finalize its recommendations for programs and services going forward.

The goal is to find the best way to keep as many services and programs as possible.

The special meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 17 at the Oneida County UW-Extension offices.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bjoki@lakeland times.com.

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