The members of the Price County Executive Committee got their first look at the preliminary 2020 budget last week with the final numbers still out on the horizon.

The rough draft as presented makes it appear there will only be a slight increase in the taxes for the county's portion, but County Administrator Nick Trimner said on Monday that the numbers in what he called the "first presentation" of the budget are very fluid.

"What you looked at last week, will be very different than the ones that are going to be presented tomorrow at the full county board," he said.

The county board was set to meet on Tuesday at 9 a.m.

"We've had some community push back, so the numbers are likely to change and that will be up to the board to make decisions about," Trimner said.

The line item that is raising hackles across the county is a proposal to totally eliminate the University of Wisconsin Extension budget. The dollars from the cut would be diverted to hire an additional social worker for the Health and Human Services Department.

Were the UW Extension elimination to be approved, that could mean the end of longstanding 4-H Club programs in Price County.

Trimner said that the Price County 4-H leaders can not operate on a "stand-alone basis" without the partnership of a county.

"There are some 4-H Clubs that are now partnering with Rusk County or Ashland County," Trimner said.

He stated that he is not confident that information is exactly correct.

"We are checking to see if there is another way that 4-H can still exist in Price County," Trimner said.

When asked what would happen to the Price County Fair without any 4-H guided projects to exhibit, he said that it probably wouldn't matter because 4-H and the fair are two very separate entities and the exhibitors would still have a place to exhibit at the fair.

"We'll still have the fair, even if we don't have the UW Extension," he said. "We hear how popular the 4-H programs are,

but we also hear that it is not as popular as it once was and that there were only two 4-H members who went to the 4-H summer camp. We hear that there are all of these classes and courses, but how many actually go to them? We have heard many are dropped because there are not enough attendants."

The 4-H Clubs do have some fundraising of their own through the year including food sales during the fair.

"We know there are programs like Strong Bones and Girls on the Run, but probably the hospital would pick up supporting those," Trimner said. "We feel they have a lack of programming and attendance and that those programs could transition into another supporter program."

He offered the reminder that it is still early days with the budget numbers and also noted that his email box has been filled by 4-H and UW Extension supporters.

"I can tell you that the first presentation numbers will be changed more than most people would think because of the push back we've gotten," he concluded. "We will see what the discussion at tomorrow's meeting (Sept. 17) brings forward.

The UW Extension discussion and any votes regarding that question will come under the budget talks and will not appear individually on the agendas.

The figure stated on the preliminary budget for the UW-Extension is $87,425, which could go to zero if the county board decides to cast their votes for that cut.

There are three 4-H Clubs in the Phillips area; one in the Park Falls area, one in the Kennan Catawba area, and three in the Prentice, Ogema, Spirit and Brantwood area.

Other groups that would be cut would include the Master Gardening Program and the Flambeau River Community Growing Center in Park Falls.

The agricultural agent for Price County was eliminated a few years back, but farmers could still get water and soil testing through the UWExtension offices.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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