No one spoke at a public hearing Monday on a proposed $130 million capital improvement package aimed at upgrades for dozens of Fort Wayne Community Schools properties.
The hearing was the first of two planned for REPAIR 2020, which would include renovations to secure school entrances, improve energy efficiency and increase the number of permanent classrooms at Levan Scott Academy and Franke Park Elementary School, where modular buildings are now in place.
Projects would be funded through a referendum to be placed on the May 5 ballot and are part of a series of upgrades paid for through bonds approved by voters in 2012 and 2016.
“Overall, the goal of the project is to create a better learning environment for our students,” said Kathy Friend, FWCS chief financial officer. “We feel good that we have a reasonable plan here for our taxpayers.”
A second hearing will be held Dec. 9, when board members will vote on whether to put the measure before voters.
District officials began discussing the referendum this summer, when costs for the upgrades were expected to be about $125 million. Friend and Superintendent Wendy Robinson said the figure increased because of rising construction costs.
They said the effect on homeowners would be low, with the district keeping tax rates at 30.28 cents per $100 of assessed valuation – the same rate FWCS has held since 2012. Because property assessments have increased over time, the same rate will bring in more money than it used to.
School leaders have hailed spending approved in the two earlier referendums as essential to fixing needed problems in decades-old buildings.
At Northrop High School, a new, secure entrance was constructed and aging pipes were replaced.
“These are things that are behind the walls,” Friend said. “(These are) affecting the heat and air conditioning, the comfort level in the schools.”
Beyond comfort, voters will be asked to OK spending on heating and cooling systems, upgrades at schools in order to comply with federal accessibility rules and security modifications at 33 buildings. Nearly $7 million would be spent on roof replacements, according to district plans.
Three buildings – Blackhawk and Miami middle schools and Wayne High School – would get upgrades including energy-efficient lighting and ventilation improvements.
FWCS leaders recently held four information meetings to outline plans.