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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
Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Open HouseSubmitted: 10/21/2014

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RHINELANDER - The new Rhinelander Area Food Pantry features new aisles for easier shopping, a sitting area, and large scale for weighing food.

You could see the updates at the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Tuesday. The pantry held an open house to celebrate its new location.

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Nicolet's College Visit Night gives people more information about schoolSubmitted: 10/21/2014

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RHINELANDER - People who want to learn more about going to school at Nicolet College can go to College Visit Night. College Visit Night will be held from 5-7pm on Tuesday.

The event will give people an idea of what programs the college offers. It's taking place at the University Transfer Center.

There will be admissions information, campus tours and financial aid information.

"We open this opportunity up for students to come in and make an informed choice about their educational path. We work with non-traditional students coming in, high school students, parents, support whoever wants to come and see what we're all about at Nicolet," says Nicolet College Career Coach Kelly Anunson.

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Free meals helps fight hunger in northcentral Wisconsin Submitted: 10/21/2014

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WAUSAU - Nearly a billion people in the world don't eat enough to stay healthy. People in Wisconsin do much better than that, but too many still struggle with hunger.

One church in northcentral Wisconsin wants to help more people understand the hunger issue.

St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Wausau serves hot meals every Tuesday. They've been doing this for about a decade. More than 30 people had a hot meal Tuesday. They don't ask for an ID or any type of income verification.

They started this because they saw more people ending up on the streets.

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Wisconsin DNR encourages composting Submitted: 10/21/2014

MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants homeowners to compost or mulch fallen leaves. This will help keep the leaves out of landfills and lower the chances of burning piles.

DNR leaders say composting means more room and landfill and less chance of stray sparks from burning piles that can start wildfires.

Fewer burning piles will also helps maintain a high level of air quality.
potassium.

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Merrill's old DNR Ranger Station will become brew pub Submitted: 10/21/2014

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MERRILL - The old DNR ranger station in Merrill will become a brew pub.

The city of Merrill sold the building to a company that plans on opening up the pub within the next year. The company plans on eventually becoming a microbrewery.

The building was built in 1940. The DNR opened up a new ranger station in a different spot in Merrill a few years ago.

"When the ranger station rebuilt this building was turned back to the city and we've used it for a couple of years now since we've had it for the park and recreations summer program," says Merrill City Administrator David Johnson. "We decided to sell the property when there was an interest shown in turning it into a business."

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Promoting feed beets in Wisconsin Submitted: 10/21/2014

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BRYANT - Only one farm in all of Wisconsin grows sugar beets.

Rine Ridge Farms is northeast of Antigo, in Bryant. The farm hopes more farmers will catch on to alternative dairy feed.

"They're 80% digestible where corn is usually only around 40% digestible. They're high in sugar they're 20% sugar," said Dan Rine of Rine Ridge Farms.

Beets are easy to grow in our neck of the woods.

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Teal pumpkins to signal allergy-safe trick-or-treating in the NorthwoodsSubmitted: 10/21/2014

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NORTHWOODS - Teal pumpkins will act as a beacon to some trick-or-treators in the Northwoods this Halloween.

For kids with food allergies, gathering candy might not be an option.

A new program by the Food Allergy Research & Education organization wants to help those kids. They've come up with the Teal Pumpkin Project.

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