Superintendents discuss property tax reform effects - March 03, 2008

Record Number: 3891
Displayed from: Mar 03, 2008 , until: Mar 31, 2008

The four Allen County school superintendents met for a joint press conference Friday, Feb. 29, to discuss the ramifications of the proposed property tax legislation. Property tax reform has been the primary issue being addressed by the General Assembly this year. While school district officials understand the concerns about rising property taxes, the proposed tax reform may not give people the relief they are seeking. "There's been a lot of conversation about property tax reform, but there hasn't been enough conversation in the community about what the changes would actually mean to schools," Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson said. "These changes as currently proposed would have a significant effect on how we educate children." The four school districts will lose millions of dollars annually under the proposal as follows: East Allen County Schools, $558,000; Fort Wayne Community Schools, $3.2 million; Northwest Allen County Schools, $1.6 million; and Southwest Allen County Schools, $2.8 million. The losses will mean real cuts to education, including reducing the number of students transported to school and the number of field trips offered, increasing class sizes, cutting summer school in some districts, and further losing the ability to maintain aging buildings in other districts. In many cases, the loss in revenue cuts into the programs that make each school district unique and limits the ability for communities to maintain local control over their schools. "We need to understand that schools are not just tax spenders," Northwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Steve Yager said. "Schools are the economic engine that creates an educated workforce." And while the proposed property tax cuts would save property owners on their property tax bills, many people will pay more in taxes with the 1 percent increase in sales tax and the optional 0.5 percent increase in Local Option Income Tax. The owner of a $120,000 home with an annual income of $55,000 (Indiana's median homeowner), for instance, would pay about $113 more a year in taxes under the reforms. A renter with an income of $27,500 would pay about $276 more a year in taxes.

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.