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NEWS STORIES

Rural Schools Task Force holds first public hearingSubmitted: 10/23/2013
Story By Lex Gray

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RHINELANDER - Rural schools face different challenges than schools in suburbs and cities. State legislators say they want to understand what those challenges are, and how they might help.

Local state representative Rob Swearingen chairs the Rural Schools Task Force. Eleven other representatives make up the task force.

Their goal is to create legislation that will help rural schools. Today, the task force listened to superintendents from four local districts.

Their overwhelming message: the school funding formula needs to change. Most Northwoods districts get less state aid because they have high property values.

"It doesn't take into account the ability of our taxpayers to help with the funding of schools," said Kelli Jacobi, superintendent of the School District of Rhinelander. "As our state aid goes down, our taxpayers are expected to pay more, and our taxpayers can't afford to do that."

Swearingen says he hopes house speaker Robin Vos will listen to that. But the funding formula wasn't the purpose of the task force, and it won't be the focus.

"The focus of this group is to make sure the school districts are using the money they have more effectively, so that's part of the discussion. Clearly, the state doesn't have money to just throw at the districts," Swearingen said. "But if we can transfer some of this into categorical aid, something that specifically relates to these rural school problems, maybe we can address some of those financial issues."

Categorical aid could apply to costs like transportation. Three of the four superintendents who spoke today said that would be a big help.

Their districts are geographically large, so they spend huge amounts of money getting kids to and from school. Northland Pines spends $1.3 million every year. Rhinelander spends $1.5 million.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 10/01/2014

- Four Wisconsin State Assembly candidates will debate in Wausau tonight. The two Democrats and Republicans will argue about topics like jobs, healthcare and the direction of the area. We'll have a preview of the debate tonight on Newswatch 12.

- Cranberry Fest draws about 40,000 people to Eagle River each year. Organizers think this year will be no exception. They started preparing for this weekend's festival today. Find out more tonight on Newswatch 12.

- The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform tonight in Rhinelander. We caught them earlier today at a special concert for students in Rhinelander. Hear what brought them here and how you can go to their concert tonight.

We'll have the details on this story and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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Young eagles struggling to find foodSubmitted: 10/01/2014

RHINELANDER - Birds of prey in the Northwoods could struggle to find food this fall. Young eagles in particular are struggling to feed right now. Animal rehabilitation groups have seen spikes in the number of starving eagles this year. The late start to the spring may be one of the problems.

"It's not the most amount of eagles that we've ever had, but it's the largest amount of starved juvenile eagles that we've ever had," said Wild Instincts Director Mark Naniot. "We saw a lot of the eagle chicks coming in that were very small compared to what we usually see. They normally fledge around the 4th of July or about a week before they start leaving the nest. We were getting some that were not even close to leaving the nest at the end of July."

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Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra visits RhinelanderSubmitted: 10/01/2014

RHINELANDER - Sounds of Mozart, Beethoven and Rossini filled Rhinelander High School's auditorium Wednesday.

Those same sounds were in concert Wednesday night.

Students attended a concert by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra that morning.

The Northwoods Concert Association brought the symphony into town.

They were able to play at the high school thanks to the Hodag Schools Foundation.

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Teenagers open long-awaited grocery store in WabenoSubmitted: 10/01/2014

WABENO - Wabeno has been hungry for a grocery story since its last one closed years ago.

Now, the community has one, and customers are in for a surprise.

"They're like, is the owner or manager here? I'm like, I'm right here," says 17-year-old Kaitlyn Ashbeck.

Twins Kaitlyn and Abigail Ashbeck opened Ashbeck's One Stop this summer at age 16.

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DNR begins Little Rice dam repairs, some homeowners unhappy about water levelsSubmitted: 10/01/2014

CRANDON - The Wisconsin DNR will start repairing the Little Rice dam this month.

But in order to do their work, the agency will have to lower water levels earlier than usual and that's upset some people living on the water.

The dam was built in the 1930s.

"There's leaks, there's chips and cracks and it was time to do some major repair," says DNR Wildlife Biologist Jeremy Holtz.

The structure creates the Little Rice Flowage by damming the Wolf River just outside of Crandon.

The DNR started lowering water levels in the flowage Wednesday to repair the dam.

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Walker slightly ahead of Burke in new pollSubmitted: 10/01/2014

MADISON - With less than five weeks until Election Day, a new poll shows Gov. Scott Walker is slightly ahead of Democrat Mary Burke in the race for Wisconsin governor.

The Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows Walker with 50.5 percent support among likely voters compared with 44.7 percent for Burke.

That 5.8-point lead is just above the poll's 4.5 percentage point margin of error.

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86th distirct state assembly candidates debateSubmitted: 10/01/2014

WAUSAU - Four state assembly candidates will debate in Wausau Wednesday night. The two democrats and republicans will argue about topics like jobs, healthcare and the direction of the area.

The 86th district covers most of Western Marathon county and a small portion of Wood County. A Republican has held the seat for more than a decade. The city of Wausau traditionally votes for Democrats, but it is nearly entirely in the 85th district. That could mean good things for the incumbent Republican John Spiros.

The race is between Spiros and Democrat Nancy Stencil.

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