The Fort Wayne Community Schools Board of School Trustees was presented a budget for 2017 on Monday that is 1.5 percent higher than the 2016 budget. The increase is due in part to the referendums approved by voters in May and in 2012 to address facility needs at 42 buildings and an increase in the number of buses being replaced.
The $289 million plan continues to focus on spending the maximum amount possible in the classroom. The 2017 General Assembly session is a budget year, however, which means changes in school funding could occur mid-year. “As always, we are working closely with our state legislators to be sure they understand the complex needs of a richly diverse district like FWCS,” Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said. “We appreciate the support we have received in the past and expect this will continue going forward. Our legislators understand that we are responsible stewards of the funding we receive focusing first and foremost on the needs of the students.”
FWCS remains above average in the state in terms of funneling dollars into the classroom. During the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year data is available, FWCS spent 61.7 percent of its budget in the classroom, compared to the state average of 57.4 percent.
With additional building projects starting in 2017, the referendum debt will increase. The tax rate, however, will remain below the amount approved by voters in 2012 and 2016.
“We continue to be grateful to the community for supporting these building projects,” Friend said. “The learning environment in the schools already completed is greatly enhanced. We are committed to doing the best work possible using local contractors and being fiscally responsible.”
Thanks to continued low gas prices, FWCS will be able to purchase additional buses in 2017. Buses are to be replaced on a 12-year schedule, but the circuit breaker (tax caps) has limited the amount FWCS and other school districts can collect to replace buses. Because of the limited funds, FWCS has fallen behind in replacing buses according to the schedule, causing an increase in maintenance and repair costs for the older fleet. In 2017, 37 buses will be replaced, the largest order in many years.
A public hearing on the proposed 2017 budget will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, in the Grile Administrative Center, 1200 S. Clinton St. Board members will vote on the plan at the Oct. 24 Board meeting.
With nearly 30,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 50 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.