Fort Wayne & NE Indiana News

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FWCS Budget Increases Slightly In 2018

The Fort Wayne Community Schools Board of School Trustees was presented a budget for 2018 on Monday that is 1.9 percent higher than the 2017 budget.

The 2018 budget anticipates an increase in student enrollment, which would mean an increase in state funding. As of the official count day, FWCS enrollment was up more than 150 students. The final enrollment number will be available in October after enrollment records statewide are cleaned up.

The $295.5 million plan continues to focus on spending the maximum amount possible in the classroom. State funding, however, is only increasing by 0.7 percent per student.

“We work diligently every year to make sure the maximum amount of resources are being directly spent for the benefit of students,” Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said. “Though we are seeing only a slight increase in the per pupil amount in state funding, the increase in enrollment will help maintain our goal of focusing on the classroom first.”

FWCS remains above average in the state in terms of funneling dollars into the classroom. During the 2014-15 school year, the most recent year data is available, FWCS spent 61.4 percent of its budget in the classroom, compared to the state average of 57 percent.

Work will continue on the building projects included in the 2016 referendum, which was approved by voters. In addition, the Capital Projects plan includes $5.9 million in general building maintenance, such as roof replacements, HVAC replacements, masonry, traffic and safety improvements and more. With the referendum covering major work on buildings, the Capital Projects Fund can once again be used for ongoing maintenance on the district’s 62 buildings.

Property owners should see a minimal change in the property taxes paid to FWCS. The owner of a $100,000 home with the homestead exemption can expect to pay about $5 more than last year.

This will be the last year the Board approves a budget based on five different funds, each with their own guidelines for how the funds can be spent. A change in state law reduces the number of non-debt funds to two: One for educational expenses and one for operational expenses.

“This change will allow some flexibility in how money is spent, but we must make sure we are disciplined in allocating funds similar to how it is done now,” Friend said. “We still need to make sure we are covering transportation, capital projects and classroom expenses. Just because we can move money around doesn’t mean we will have funding available to move. We must remain good stewards of our resources with this flexibility.”

A public hearing on the proposed 2018 budget will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9, in the Grile Administrative Center, 1200 S. Clinton St. Board members will vote on the plan at the Oct. 23 Board meeting