Enrollment impacting FWCS budget

The FWCS Board discussed the budget and teachers' contracts during Monday's meeting.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The Fort Wayne Community School budget is staying steady for now, but leaders said cuts are in the future.

“Our budget situation is pretty bleak,” Board president Mark GiaQuinta said.

The $284 million dollar plan is less than one percent more than last year’s budget and still presents long-term financial challenges for the district.

“Although we had an increase from the state because we are seeing a drop in enrollment we’re basically going to have flat revenue in the general fund, so that’s a pretty significant issue we’re going to be dealing with,” Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said.

The district saw nearly 1,000 students leave since last school year and it’s pointing the finger at the voucher program.

“Prior to the vouchers going into effect we were really very stable for many, many years. In the first year of the voucher program we lost about 300 students and that has continued since the voucher program began,” Friend said.

“We see seven times more students leaving A and B rated schools than we do D rated schools, which tells us that they are not leaving because they’re not getting a good education they are leaving because they want religious education and we cannot provide that,” GiaQuinta said.

Friend said cuts will have to be made to the general fund to keep up with the drop in enrollment, but there won’t be anymore cuts to the transportation fund next year after routes were slashed this year.

The district will also see a decrease in the amount of funds available in the Capital Projects Fund. To help compensate for that, another referendum is in the works for 2016 to help fund building improvements. Roof improvements and HVAC upgrades are among the projects needed. Taxpayers won’t see a change in property taxes with the proposed budget.

A public hearing on the budget will be Oct. 16 and the board will vote on it Oct. 26.

Also during Monday’s meeting the board approved new contracts for teachers. Under the new contract eligible teachers who are currently paid below the average for teachers with equal education and years of experience will be brought up to the average. Eligible teachers who are at or above the average will receive a once percent salary increase. In the 2016-17 school year, eligible teachers will receive an additional one percent salary increase. The starting salary for teachers remains at $37,000 for teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree and $41,000 for teachers with a Master’s Degree.

Effective and highly effective teachers will continue to be eligible for stipends beyond their base pay.

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