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Will It Pass? Rhinelander Referendum DecisionSubmitted: 02/06/2013
Story By Lex Gray & Kira Lynne


RHINELANDER - No one wants to pay higher taxes.

But Rhinelander, Northland Pines, and Three Lakes school districts are asking you for more money.

So we asked them what's at stake.

Tonight, Newswatch 12's Lex Gray and Kira Lynne take a look at the School District of Rhinelander.

"When I look back to moving to this area, one of the reasons was [my husband] was very confident in the school system," says Lori Haug.

Lori and her husband Tony Haug moved to Rhinelander from Eau Claire 14 years ago.

"At the time when we moved here, I felt it was a very good school district, a good place to raise kids," Tony says.

That's proven to be true for their three children.

"I think our decision to move here was a great one," Lori says. "The depth of the curriculum is something that my girls are really enjoying. We have both of them in Advanced Placement classes. They'll be more than prepared to go to university if they choose."

But the Haugs also have a son in seventh grade.

By the time he gets to high school, AP courses, foreign languages, and other electives could be gone.

"The thought of losing that is scary to us," Lori says.

Scary, but a definite possibility.

The School District of Rhinelander is asking taxpayers for another $4 million per year through 2016.

That means each year, you'd pay $105 more than you do now per $100,000 in property value.

The odds are stacked against the district.

It's gone to referendum 24 times since 1996. Fifteen of the 24 have failed.

Lori hopes this time is different.

"It's time to bury all the distrust before and move forward for the sake of the community."

The effects of a failed referendum go beyond classroom doors.

"The students lose, future students lose, the town loses," Tony says. "When your school system is going negative, people will relocate, businesses will not come here, current businesses will question being here, and growth will go slow."

Growth is important to Tony. He's the president of ABX, a Rhinelander manufacturing company.

"Having a strong school system is important for all businesses that are currently here and all future businesses," he said.

But if this referendum fails, Rhinelander won't have a strong school system.

The board started cutting back in 2002. They've laid off teachers, trimmed down activities and sports, closed a building, and cut back on busing.

This time, the district cuts would go even deeper.

Charter schools and some sports and activities would go.

But most disturbing for the Haugs - elective classes would also go.

"My oldest daughter now is looking into colleges" Tony says. "So when you talk about the electives and courses being cut that would prevent her from getting into one of the universities of Wisconsin, that's a huge concern."

It's a concern big enough to talk about moving.

"If our kids don't have the ability to get into universities, going to Rhinelander High School, I think you have to reevaluate where you're living," Tony says.

"I think we would have to consider it," Lori says. "Would we want to? Absolutely not."

But the Haugs hope it won't come to that.

"I believe most people understand that we have to maintain the school districts and the levels," Tony says. "I believe that it will be passed and it needs to be passed and it's the right thing to do. We want to fight for our town and the school district."

"We're at the cusp of something very important here," Lori says. "I think for the sake of our community and our future, it's very important to support it and move forward in a really positive matter."

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 09/29/2016

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

Merrill leaders decided not to discipline City Administrator Dave Johnson and Fire Chief Dave Savone for taking items from the Lincoln County Fairgrounds that some people considered historic and valuable. Merrill Mayor Bill Bealecki issued a statement to the media saying that although Johnson and Savone didn't violate city policy, their actions were in poor judgment. We'll hear from Johnson on what he thinks about the statement.

The Northwoods area has seen several cases of deer poaching in the last week, and most of them were not caught. But authorities recently caught two teenagers in the act thanks to neighbors in the Lakeland area. You'll hear from the Conservation Ward Supervisor on how they were caught.

And, we'll tell you about a local company that is transferring ownership to all of the employees.

We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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ONEIDA COUNTY - No matter the weather, a glass of wine can be enjoyed year round. Even in the bitter cold, there are wineries in Oneida County that still offer tastings and wine tours.

"When people think of a winery, they do think of grape wines. They're kind of surprised, pleasantly surprised when they come to our winery and see fruit wines," said Terri Schenck from Three Lakes Winery.

The Oneida County wineries are a little bit different than what you'd see in Napa Valley.

"It is a farm so we are working on different crops, black currants, apples and an experimental vineyard," said Linda Welbes from Brigadoon Winery in Tripoli.

With the unique flavors of wines, Three Lakes Winery and Brigadoon Winery often see a lot of visitors from out of town.

"They usually say, 'I didn't know how much I needed this.' They relax, they unwind whether it's summer time or fall, just to sit outdoors when it's beautiful, it's peaceful, it's quiet," said Welbes.

Three Lakes Winery has a lot of history behind their building. 

"The actual winery itself is an old Chicago Northwestern Train Depot that was built in 1880. There was a tornado or wind storm that happened in 1924 that destroyed the building," said Schenck.

The building was rebuilt shortly after. Every fall the winery hosts cranberry marsh tours.

"There are several bogs in the area and it's interesting for people to be able to go and see a bog and see how the cranberries are harvested and what goes into making cranberry wine," said Schenck.

With winter right around the corner, the crops won't be producing much.

"The crops, they are what they are. It's farming so there's not much you have to do and you just hope for good weather. Lots of snow cover, that helps," said Welbes.

The Three Eagle Trail runs right into the parking lot of Three Lakes Winery. That brings in a lot of traffic year-round.

"In the winter time it turns into the snowmobile trail. We will get a lot of snowmobile traffic in the winter time and a lot of foot traffic, hiking, biking people in the summer time," said Schenck.

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TOMAH - Wisconsin cranberry growers are expecting an above-average crop yield this year because of nearly ideal growing conditions.

Ed Grygleski is president of Valley Corp., a cranberry producer near Tomah in west central Wisconsin. He tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that it has been a great year for growing because there has been plenty of sun without extreme heat.

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APPLETON - Tuition and debt have jumped at Wisconsin's technical colleges, which are supposed to provide a more affordable option for career training than four-year universities or for-profit schools.

The Post-Crescent reports that U.S. Department of Education figures show many tech school students are facing bigger financial challenges than they were a few years ago.

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LINCOLN COUNTY - In the Northwoods, plenty of families sell organic eggs from their small farms. But a new chicken farm near Gleason takes production to a different level.

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EAGLE RIVER - Highway workers do a dangerous job, working alongside traffic with very little protection.  A new state law could make their jobs a little safer.

A handheld cellphone ban for work zones starts statewide Saturday.  Drivers will not be allowed to make or answer phone calls while in work zones unless they use Bluetooth or some sort of earpiece.

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ONEIDA COUNTY - We likely won't see any more severe weather this year. But during any weather event, the National Weather Service relies on a group of volunteers to help keep us safe.

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