FWCS Budget Up for 2015; Tax Rate Remains Flat - September 23, 2014
Taxpayers should expect the tax rate for Fort Wayne Community Schools to remain flat next year, according the 2015 budget reviewed by the Board of School Trustees today.
The $281 million plan is just 2 percent more than the 2014 budget. The budget presents long-term financial challenges for FWCS, which remains one of the largest school districts in the state. The most pressing issue is in the Transportation Fund, which has experienced significant losses in revenue because of the circuit breaker and pension bond neutrality. FWCS anticipates a reduction in transportation services beginning in the 2015-16 school year with a $2.5 million budget reduction necessary. The Bus Replacement Fund is also suffering from state-required cuts, leaving more than 25 percent of the fleet older than 12 years, the targeted replacement age for a bus. Older buses become expensive to maintain as they typically require more repairs to keep the vehicle safe for transporting students.
“What we are seeing in the Transportation Fund is similar to what happened to the Capital Projects Fund,” Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said. “As we fall farther behind in replacing buses, it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to catch up. In the meantime, repair costs increase, further draining the transportation budget. As we have some tough decisions to make in the coming months, we will be sharing future transportation plans with the community.”
The General Fund, meanwhile, is stable for the time-being, but changes in the funding formula are anticipated when the Indiana General Assembly meets early next year.
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.
“Ensuring that the maximum amount of dollars goes into the classroom is a priority for FWCS,” Friend said. “While we have many expenses outside of the classroom supporting students, we look at every dollar to make sure it is being spent for the benefit of students.”
A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, in the Grile Administrative Center, 1200 S. Clinton St. Board members will vote on the plan at the Oct. 27 Board meeting.