FWCS budget aligned with student success - August 14, 2006

Record Number: 2564
Displayed from: Aug 14, 2006 , until: Sep 14, 2006

Fort Wayne Community Schools' 2007 budget will maintain the district's strong academic focus and commitment to explore ways to do more with limited funding. The finely-tuned budget keeps FWCS on sound financial footing while at the same time supporting strategies that enhance student achievement. This budget reaffirms our commitment to success for all students and the goals outlined by our Strategic Plan, said Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson. Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated, hard-working staff and the assistance of our legislators, we will continue to ensure that programs that are making a difference for students are supported financially. In budgets passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2005, FWCS received a slight increase in state revenue, .8 percent for 2007. Legislation allows for additional increases through the property tax to provide for the rising costs of utilities and insurance; to recoup the 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 $269,303,456, which is 2.7 percent higher than last year's. However, changes made by state legislation to provide property tax relief to homeowners continue this year when the standard homeowner deduction goes from $35,000 to $45,000 for 2007 only. So, even though the FWCS 2007 tax rate is about the same as 2006, tax bills will go down about $91 for a home assessed at $100,000. That is a 15 percent reduction. 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 the $2.7 million annual payments that must be made to fund the Pension Bond. If the state did not require tax neutrality, this amount would be available for capital projects. CPF is for building construction, renovation and repair, as well as equipment purchase and maintenance. A major component of the beleaguered CPF is funding for school improvement projects. While there is much need across the district, this year only one project will be funded: The mechanical system and boiler at Franke Park Elementary School must be replaced or the school will not be allowed to remain open. That one project will take all of $1.3 million available for school improvement projects.
FWCS has aging facilities, with its 61 buildings having an average age of 49 years. Sixty-five percent of the schools are more than 40 years old. As buildings age, it becomes more difficult and expensive to maintain them because replacement parts for some equipment become extinct. In a few weeks, the district will release the results of two building assessment and educational suitability studies. The reports, by MSKTD and MGT America, Inc., will serve as the foundation of the Long-range Facilities Planning process with the goal of addressing facility needs in an organized way over a period of time. Community advisory groups will begin meeting next month to review the studies and set priorities for the plan. The district continues to make steady gains in getting closer to the state average in per pupil expenditures. In 2000, FWCS was $212 below the state average. Today, thanks to the hard work of state legislators, the district's is $169.45 below the state. We will continue to look for ways to do more with the funding we receive as we work toward meeting our goal of success for all students, said Dr. Robinson, adding, We are very thankful for the commitment our local legislators have shown to public education. The 2007 budget report also addresses the district's other tax-supported funds: general, racial balance, transportation, debt service, special education pre-school and the Museum of Art. A budget hearing will be held during the Board of School Trustees Aug. 28 meeting, and board members will vote on the proposed budget on Sept. 11.

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.