FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne Community Schools $119 million building renovation project will go to voters this spring after supporters collected the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot.
The Allen County Voter Registration board Wednesday verified 214 registered voters had signed a petition to put the building plan on the May ballot, according to Barry Schust, Republican member of the board.
Since more than 125 signatures were verified, the petition does not have to be checked by the county auditor.
The Allen County Election Board now will develop a ballot question. The Department of Local Government Finance will have final say on the wording of the question, which must be certified by the county auditor to the county Election Board by late February or early March.
Last fall, Fort Wayne Community Schools staff identified up to $242 million worth of needed upgrades to its aging buildings. After a series of public meetings, the board whittled the plan down to $119 million worth of renovations at 36 buildings in most need of repair.
Board members hope that after the district completes the first round of projects in 2016, the public will approve all or part of the remaining $123 million in renovations.
Unlike the $500 million FWCS building plan that was defeated in 2007, the current proposal calls for no square footage to be added, meaning buildings would receive no extra kindergarten classrooms, extra gymnasiums, expanded computer labs or other renovations that would create more space.
School board Vice President John Peirce, who led the districts failed campaign four years ago, decided to lead the current petition effort because he was familiar with parts of the process.
He and other supporters of the building project want a referendum on the project because without voter approval, the district cannot afford the plan. If approved, the plan would fall outside the property tax caps, meaning the cost would be shared by all taxpayers in the district and wouldnt increase the tax-cap loss for other units of government.
If approved by voters in May, the building project would last from 2013 through 2016 and could cost the average homeowner a property tax increase of $27 a year, according to district officials.
Advocates for the plan are trying to build public support for the initiative.
Peirce is holding a series of community meetings to promote the project. And architect John Riley has started www.good4schools.com, an online forum for discussion of the plan.