MERRILL - Merrill could be the newest local school district to rely on referendum money in its school budget.
The district faces a $1.8 million dollar operating deficit for next school year, and it has had to take from savings for years to keep the school running.
"We've been making cuts, and we've gotten in the habit of making cuts. Unfortunately, we became very good at making cuts," said Superintendent Dr. John Sample.
A consultant's survey got more than 1,600 responses from people in the district. It shows two-thirds of respondents support some sort of referendum to help pay for schools.
"The survey showed that most of the community gets that whether you've got children or grandchildren currently as a student in the district [or not], that the district needs the community just as much as the community needs the district," Sample said.
The most popular option was raising $2.5 million per year over the next four years to support the current level of operations and support some additional ones, like tech ed and maintenance.
"As much as I think I know the community, because I'm out in the community as much as I possibly can be, it was still a huge sigh of relief and a very pleasant surprise [with] the outcome of the survey," Sample said.
Merrill's school board could approve a referendum plan as soon as December 6. The referendum question would be on the April ballot.
RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Police Department identified the man who died after a house fire on Friday night as 35-year-old Jeffery J. Becker.
Rhinelander Fire Chief Terry Williams told Newswatch 12 on Monday afternoon that an autopsy indicates Becker died from smoke inhalation, but the autopsy results and further investigation is now in the hands of the state Department of Criminal Investigations.
Crews responded to the house at 320 Rose Street, near Hodag Park, around 7:30 p.m. Friday. Firefighters went inside the house soon after they arrived and found Becker unresponsive on the floor. Firefighters and paramedics tried to revive Becker, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
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