The League of Women Voters of Dane County hosted a meeting to discuss problems faced by rural communities Tuesday.
The forum, entitled “Understanding Rural Dane County,” featured three speakers: Dane County Board Supervisor, District 28, Nikki Jones, Barb Feeney, who serves on the Oregon School District Board of Education and attorney for Dane County Towns Association Mark Hazelbaker.
Jones said there are three problems Dane County needs to solve: health and human needs, infrastructure and land use.
In order to solve any of those problems, Dane County needs to focus on “broadband access.”
“Broadband access involves all aspects of rural development,” Jones said. “It includes schools, adult learning, support for employment, farming, etcetera.”
She also said though Dane County received some funds from the legislature, it was not enough for broadband access.
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In the same vain, Feeney said it was “challenging” for smaller, rural school districts to obtain funding for education.
“Geography should not be destiny to our kids, and money should not be a problem either,” Feeney said.
The funding formula for education in rural school districts is broken, Feeney said. Due to smaller student bodies, rural school districts do not have the economy of scales that urban districts have.
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Hazelbaker said there was a possibility of slowing the rural sprawl in the Dane County area, but people “make it worse” when moving out to neighboring counties where land is cheaper.
The solution to rural sprawl is communication between counties and working together, Hazelbaker said.
“Towns should have the option to do their own zoning, but work together as a whole at the same time,” Hazelbaker said.