FWCS touts its falling tax rate
13 Sep 2022 — Journal Gazette
Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne Community Schools board member wanted to make sure Monday that those watching the 2023 budget presentation understood the $345 million spending plan is expected to come with a 3% decrease in the overall tax rate.

Steve Corona, who also sits on the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, tied the school district's declining tax rate to the investment that businesses are making in the city.

"I know from time to time there's questions about the city of Fort Wayne providing tax increment financing to induce businesses to expand or relocate here," Corona said. "We can see the downtown changing, but this is proof that the value of our community is rising, and as a result our tax rate is going down."

FWCS, which serves nearly 30,000 students, expects the tax rate to be 90.21 cents, compared with the current rate of 92.78 cents.

The bulk of the district's proposed budget is designated for the education fund. The $225 million will support teachers, classroom assistants, school administration, magnet programs, the Career Academy, classroom materials, curriculum and assessments.

About $84.4 million is earmarked for the operations fund, which includes district operations, capital projects, transportation and bus replacements.

Together, spending for the two funds increased by 4%, said Kathy Friend, chief financial officer.

The district's debt, which includes referendum spending, accounts for about $35.5 million. Member Julie Hollingsworth stressed that the district is maintaining a 30.28-cent tax rate for the debt.

"When we campaigned for that referendum in 2020, we promised a certain tax rate, and sometimes, you know, promises aren't always met, but we have kept ours," she said.

Referendums have helped FWCS maintain and upgrade facilities as it loses millions to the tax cap, Friend said. The cumulative tax cap loss since 2009 is about $88 million.

"Without those referendums, we would not be keeping our buildings up at all," Friend said. "It would be super difficult to keep our buildings up if we did not have those dollars."

Board members used the budget discussion as an opportunity to ask state legislators to direct more money to schools.

"What we're getting is not enough," member Noah Smith said.

Maria Norman, board vice president, agreed. "I think that this presentation shows that we work at a deficit in lots of different buckets in our school district," she said, "and we make miracles happen every day."

The public hearing for the budget, bus replacement plan and capital projects plan is Sept. 26. The budget and plans are expected to be adopted Oct. 10.

This story is provided free courtesy of The Fort Wayne Newspapers.
"FWCS touts its falling tax rate" Journal Gazette 13 Sep 2022: A1