FWCS Budget Remains Flat for 2014 - September 25, 2013
The Fort Wayne Community Schools Board of School Trustees on Monday, Sept. 23, reviewed the 2014 budget, which will remain relatively flat in expenditures
The $275 million plan is just 0.2 percent more than the 2013 budget. The flat budget presents long-term financial challenges for FWCS, the state’s largest school district. The five-year projection shows FWCS will have to make reductions in the General Fund, which pays for salaries, benefits and other classroom expenses. Continued reductions in the Capital Projects Fund and Transportation Fund will mean fewer dollars available for ongoing maintenance and services, although the $119 million building project approved by voters in 2012 is providing much-needed improvements to many buildings. State reductions for the Bus Replacement Fund are resulting in an increasingly aging bus fleet. About 10 percent of the fleet is now older than 12 years, the targeted replacement age for a bus.
The flat budget and potential future reductions in expenditures come from a continued reduction in state funding. In 2014, the state foundation amount is $4,569 per student, which includes funding for early elementary grades called Primetime. This amount is far below the per student rate of 2009 of $4,825, which did not include Primetime funding; at that time Primetime was provided to schools in addition to the foundation amount. State funding of schools with the highest complexity (poverty rate), including FWCS, is also decreasing, and additional state changes planned for 2014 will likely result in further funding decreases. Also in 2014, state funding will be based on two different student count days. The count in September 2013 determines revenue for July-December, and the count in February 2014 determines revenue for January-June.
“The funding changes made at the state level are making it challenging for school districts to accurately predict our financial futures,” Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said. “We are budgeting conservatively, while trying to diminish negative effects on students. Already, we have had to reduce some services and will be carefully examining the budget line by line over the next few months to seek out additional savings.”
FWCS remains among the highest in the state in terms of funneling dollars into the classroom. During the 2010-11 school year, the most recent year data is available, FWCS spent 69 percent of its budget in the classroom, compared to the state average of nearly 59 percent.
Property owners can expect to see a slight increase in their tax bills in 2014. FWCS estimates the owner of a $100,000 house would pay just $9 more, in part because of the building referendum approved by voters in 2012.
A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, in the Grile Administrative Center, 1200 S. Clinton St. Board members will vote on the plan at the Oct. 28 Board meeting.