FWCS budget shrinks for second consecutive year

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Press release from Fort Wayne Community Schools:

FWCS budget shrinks for second consecutive year
The Fort Wayne Community Schools Board of School Trustees presented the district’s proposed 2011 budget to the public Monday, Sept. 13.

(September 14, 2010) – The $274 million plan is nearly $20 million less than the original budget approved for 2010. The bulk of the reductions came out of the General Fund with the closing of two schools and eliminating 91 classroom teaching positions earlier this year. Central office cuts, including restructuring administrative positions, eliminating secretarial positions and finding health insurance efficiencies, among other reductions also contributed to the smaller budget. FWCS officials will continue to monitor the budget closely in the coming months as additional stimulus money becomes available and funding from the state for 2011 becomes clear.

“While we don’t anticipate any additional cuts from the state beyond what was announced this year, we also know the economy is still weak,” Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said. “We will continue to look for ways to save money and be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

In 2011, the full impact of the circuit breaker – or tax caps – will also be felt by Fort Wayne Community Schools. The district will receive $4.16 million less in property tax revenue because of the caps. Under the circuit breaker, homeowners can pay no more than 1 percent of their property’s assessed value in property taxes. For rental properties, the cap is 2 percent, and for businesses, the cap is 3 percent. Many homeowners living within FWCS’ boundaries will not benefit from the system, however. The average home in the district is worth $99,000, but the circuit breaker does not kick in until $130,000 or more in most townships in the district.

Because the tax caps are now fully in place, the state is eliminating an additional homestead deduction for homeowners that provided property tax relief for two years. With that deduction eliminated, many homeowners who fall below the circuit breaker level will actually see their property taxes increase. While the district’s overall budget is decreasing, FWCS will be spending more to replace buses in 2011 than it did in 2010. A change in state law moved the replacement of buses from a 10-year cycle to a 12-year cycle. That reduced the number of buses that needed to be replaced in 2009 and 2010, reducing the amount of taxes collected in that fund. With 28 buses to be replaced in 2011, the tax rate returns to its normal level.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, in the Grile Administrative Center, 1200 S. Clinton St. Board members will vote on the plan at the Oct. 11 Board meeting.

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