FWCS budget stays student focused - August 09, 2005

Record Number: 1629
Displayed from: Aug 09, 2005 , until: Aug 19, 2005

Amid uncertainties in today’s economic climate, Fort Wayne Community Schools unveiled another finely-tuned budget that keeps its focus on advancing student achievement while at the same time staying within the $11 million annual cuts the district made in 2003. “This budget keeps our resources directed to supporting academic success and closing the achievement gap between minority and majority students,” said Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson. “For 2006, we will continue to be on sound financial footing thanks, in part, to our legislators who worked hard during the past session to provide what resources they could for public education.” In budgets passed by the Indiana General Assembly this spring, FWCS received a slight increase in state revenue, .9 percent for 2006 and .5 percent for 2007. This compares to the state average of 1 percent and 1.1 percent for each year. However, legislation allows for additional increases through the property tax to provide for the rising costs of utilities and insurance; to recoup the recent loss in state transportation revenue; and to reimburse schools for unfunded textbooks. Board of School Trustees members are being asked to approve a net budget of $259,492,399, an increase of 6 percent over the 2005 expected budget for the district’s tax rated funds. If approved, the tax levy rate will be $1.5198 if assessed value remains flat. That is an 8 percent increase over the 2005 rate. If a home has a market value of $100,000, it is estimated that the 2005 tax bill will be $552 and the 2006 tax bill will be $604, an increase of $52 per year. Interestingly, homeowners have seen their tax bills decrease in the past few years about 44 percent from where it was in 2002 when the owner of a $100,000 home paid $1,072. This is because the state increased sales tax 1 percent and directed those funds to school districts. For the first time, FWCS will be using its cash reserves to balance the budget. The 2006 General Fund budget reflects revenue of $183.4 million and expenditures of $186.1. This trend is likely to continue for the 2007 budget as well. “We are spending reserves, but we have those available because of the deep cuts we made in 2003 and our commitment to continue to live within those cuts,” said Dr. Robinson. “By working on budget projections five years out, not just year-by-year, we have been successful in maintaining our programs that directly impact student achievement.” A school corporation, like a family, cannot continue to delve into its ‘savings’ for long. Officials are currently looking at financial projections past 2007 and whether deeper cuts may have to be made. Meanwhile, FWCS continues to feel the pinch of the cuts made in early 2003 to offset losses in funding and a sagging economy cuts that as they are maintained represent $11 million annually. The district’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF) has been hard hit the past few years. FWCS has had to delve into those coffers to make up for shortfalls in state funding, along with the $3 million annual payments that must be made to fund the Pension Bond. CPF is for building construction, renovation and repair, as well as equipment purchase and maintenance. FWCS has aging facilities, with its 61 buildings having an average age of 39 years. In addition, FWCS is able to raise less CPF revenue than other school districts because it was required to lower the rate when the Racial Balance Fund was put into place in 1989. The Racial Balance Fund helps provide programs and staff to maintain racial balance in each school. Magnet schools, Reading Recovery program, ESL support and conflict mediators and case managers are funded from this source.
The 2006 Racial Balance Fund budget reflects a nearly $1 million increase for one-time expenditures that are needed for the Bunche Elementary School and Geyer Middle School conversion to a preK-8 Montessori program. This program will directly impact student success and help ensure the district continues to make gains in closing the achievement gap. A budget hearing will be held during the Board of School Trustees Aug. 22 meeting, and board members will vote on the proposed budget on Sept. 12.

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.