FWCS faces tough transportation decisions due to tax caps

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – School districts across the state are trying to figure out how they’re going to pay for bus service as tax dollars begin to dwindle.  Sure, property tax caps give homeowners some relief.  But, they’re causing big budget concerns for public schools.  A good portion of those tax dollars are supposed to help pay to bus students to and from school.  But without the funds, districts like Fort Wayne Community Schools are left wondering how to make ends meet.

Fort Wayne Community Schools officials say since 2009, they’ve lost close to $30,000,000.  $9,000,000 of that would have been used for transportation.  And as taxpayers are quickly hitting the caps, school officials wonder how they’ll be able to continue to afford transportation in the future.

“We’re trying to do the best we can with the resources we have,” FWCS Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said.

As tax dollars for public school transportation dry up, school leaders face tough decisions.  FWCS Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend says it’s a problem districts across the state are facing.

“We’re very concerned about the safety of our students to make sure that those that have busy roads to cross or a long distance to travel that we want to make sure they have a safe travel to their school.”

Paying for transportation isn’t cheap.  Last year FWCS needed:

  • $13.6 M to pay for transportation staff (school bus drivers, maintenance staff)
  • $2.7 M for fuel
  • $1.3 M for equipment
  • $1.1 M for bus parts and indirect costs

Another impact of all of this is FWCS isn’t able to follow state mandates of replacing buses.  They’re were supposed to replace 45 buses this year.  But due to tax caps the district can only replace 10.

“We are not driving unsafe buses. We are taking care of them so they are appropriate for the roadway but that increases your costs then on the operational end which is also losing funding.”

So, how will FWCS recover from a continuing deficit in funding?

“That’s what we’re studying right now. We’re trying to figure out the capacity of all of our buildings, any boundary adjustments that might be able to be made. We’re looking at everything before we make a decision.”

The district may have to move around funding.  As soon as NewsChannel 15 uncovers what their plan is, we’ll pass that information onto you.

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