For the second year in a row, taxpayers should expect the tax rate for Fort Wayne Community Schools to remain flat, according the 2016 budget reviewed by the Board of School Trustees today.
The $284 million plan is just less than 1 percent more than the 2015 budget. The budget continues to present long-term financial challenges for FWCS, which remains one of the largest school districts in the state. After reducing the transportation expenses by $2.6 million this year, the fund is stabilized and no additional transportation reductions are necessary. However, because of changes in state funding and enrollment declines, reductions in the General Fund may be necessary in the future.
“We always look at least five years out when planning our budget, and if the most recent trends continue, we may have to look at budget reductions,” Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said. “While recent changes in the state funding formula weren’t as detrimental as originally proposed, the money we receive from the state will be essentially flat over the next two years.”
FWCS remains among the highest in the state in terms of funneling dollars into the classroom. During the 2012-13 school year, the most recent year data is available, FWCS spent 67.4 percent of its budget in the classroom, compared to the state average of 57.5 percent.
“Our goal is always to ensure the maximum amount of dollars goes into the classroom,” Friend said. “We are here to serve students, and we work hard to make sure they have the resources, support and opportunities they need and deserve to become productive, responsible citizens.”
Money available for the Capital Projects Fund also continues to decline. As the projects approved by voters in the 2012 referendum wrap up, FWCS is starting work on a referendum for the May 2016 ballot. Project details will be determined over the next few months.
A public hearing on the proposed 2016 budget will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, in the Grile Administrative Center, 1200 S. Clinton St. Board members will vote on the plan at the Oct. 26 Board meeting.