- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014
Rural schools ask Wis. lawmakers for more cash

CUBA CITY, Wis. (AP) - If one employee leaves Cuba City High School for a higher-paying position elsewhere in Wisconsin, it can leave the school short of instructors in two or more subjects.

When rural districts need to stretch dollars, staffers often do more than one job. In Cuba City, the math and computer teacher are the same person. In Mineral Point, the superintendent also serves as business manager and director of technology.

Rural educators struggling with high transportation costs, old buildings and the loss of staff told state lawmakers studying the issue that their employees and budgets have been stretched to the limit. Without more money, they will have to close schools and could see massive deficits and their best teachers leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But lawmakers on a special task force said an overall funding increase is unlikely, although some money might be found for specific needs.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos created the rural schools task force in September after seeing districts like Rhinelander fail repeatedly to get more money by appealing directly to voters. Rhinelander residents rejected referenda in 2005 and two in 2008, preventing the district from upgrading its buildings and forcing it to consolidate some schools.

Rob Swearingen, a Rhinelander Republican and task force chairman, said the committee initially aimed to get rid of inefficiencies and find cost saving measures, not dish out more money to schools. He was surprised during visits to rural schools to see them stripped to bare bones. Dozens of rural districts are slated to ask voters April 1 for money just to keep operating and avoid closing schools; many are likely to fail.

“Referendums are just tearing these schools apart,” Swearingen said, noting the votes in Rhinelander were narrowly split.

Wisconsin law requires referenda for districts to exceed statewide revenue limits. Eighty percent of such votes are held in rural districts, said Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.


Hydrologist warns of floods if snow melts quickly

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - If all the snow that fell this winter melts too quickly, there could be severe flooding in areas of Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service.

The ripening flood conditions have been caused by higher-than-usual snowfall and frost depths nearing 8 feet in some places.

“If the melt comes too quickly, we could see some pretty good flooding. It’s still far away, but we see the conditions are laid out,” said Steve Buan, the senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service’s North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, Minn.

The frost can cause problems because water will have trouble seeping into the ground, and that forces the runoff into the rivers, Buan told the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1edJuRGhttp://bit.ly/1edJuRG ). The frost is particularly hard, too, because of adequate moisture in the soil going into the winter. That makes it even more impenetrable, he said.

Unlike most years, there was not a warm stretch in January or February to help melt some of the snow.

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