You've got questions? We've got answers! See below for answers to frequently asked questions about the SAFER FWCS referendum. Got a question? Fill our our contact form and let us know what information you'd like to know.
Frequently Asked Questions
On June 12, 2023, the Fort Wayne Community Schools Board of School Trustees voted to place a referendum on the Nov. 7, 2023, ballot asking voters to support safety and well-being initiatives in the district.
WHAT IS A REFERENDUM?
In Indiana and many other states, government entities, such as public school districts, are not allowed to raise tax rates without approval of the voters. Indiana caps property tax rates at 1% for home owners, which limits the amount government entities can collect. A referendum allows a governing body to collect a specific amount of property tax revenue for a specifically stated purpose. In this case, Fort Wayne Community Schools is asking for funding to pay for safety and well-being initiatives beyond what is currently supported through state funding.
WHY DOES FWCS BELIEVE NOW IS THE TIME TO ASK FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDING?
Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel has said in several interviews that he wishes FWCS didn’t have to ask for this additional funding. However, with the number of tragic events that have occurred across the country and the ease at which individual seem to be able to acquire weapons, the district believes it is necessary to take proactive steps to make schools in the city of Fort Wayne as safe as possible. Following the pandemic, many students and adults have faced mental health crises. That is why the plan for the referendum funds doesn’t just address infrastructure and focuses heavily on mental health supports. FWCS leaders met several times with community leaders from churches, law enforcement, the judiciary, mental health sectors and other areas to discuss how to create a safer community. Physical security enhancements and increased well-being supports were highly recommended by the group.
WHO CAN VOTE FOR THE REFERENDUM?
Anyone registered to vote living within the FWCS boundaries.
WHAT WILL THE REFERENDUM COST EACH HOMEOWNER?
The maximum amount FWCS would collect in revenue from this referendum would be $12 million per year. At that rate, the average homeowner with a home valued at $167,235 would pay $76/year or just $6 per month! And that is if the maximum amount is collected. FWCS believes some years, including the first year, the full $12 million would not be needed, so a lesser amount would be collected making the payment per resident even less.
WHY DOES THE REFERENDUM QUESTION SAY MY TAXES WILL INCREASE MORE THAN 12%?
The wording of referendum questions is dictated by the State and can be confusing. The total estimated tax bill for the average home ($167,235) is $1,862. FWCS’ portion is currently about $600. The 12.74% increase is just on that part of the bill – not the entire bill – and would equal about $6 per month. While the wording of the question is lengthy and confusing, the most important thing to remember is VOTE YES.
WHAT WILL THE $12 MILLION/YEAR PAY FOR?
The plan for the funding is heavily focused on adding staff to all of the FWCS buildings to help students with their well-being and provide extra adults to keep an eye on what is happening in the building. One piece of the plan is the addition of a position called Student Advocates in each building. These individuals have one goal: support students. They will assist in monitoring enhanced security initiatives, walk the buildings to ensure they are secure and work with students who need a mentor, a guide or just someone to talk to about whatever may be going on in their lives. South Side High School already has two Student Advocates in place this year as a pilot. In addition, FWCS plans to add 18 mental health therapists. FWCS already has licensed therapists in the elementary schools; the approval of the referendum would allow the district to add therapists to each middle and high school. The referendum would also pay for the addition of 12 School Resource Officers (SRO) for the middle and high schools. FWCS already has several SROs with most placed at middle schools. These officers are specially trained to work with students and be in schools as a resource. Other schools have security teams, and the district works closely with local law enforcement entities, but additional trained SROs would provide another layer of security and another adult in the building students can trust. Finally, FWCS would work with Alive Community Outreach to establish Peacemakers programs in the high schools. Peacemakers are already established at South Side High School, where students have learned Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence. It may take some time for all of these staff members to be hired so the district anticipates only collecting $7 million in the first year.
WILL THE REFERENDUM PAY FOR BUILDING IMPROVEMENTS?
Fort Wayne Community Schools, through its previous building referendums, has already invested in creating secure vestibules at all the school buildings (some are still under construction) as well as improved camera systems and door locks. But, there is always more we can do. We won’t go into specifics, but FWCS plans to add systems that would alert building leaders if a door is left open and other advanced security enhancements. In addition, FWCS would add the Open Gate weapons detection system to all middle and high schools. This system is currently in place at South Side High School as a pilot. The system is designed to detect weapons that could cause mass harm, unlike a metal detector, which detects all metal objects.
IF SOUTH SIDE HIGH SCHOOL HAS ALREADY PUT SOME OF THESE MEASURES IN PLACE, HAS IT MADE A DIFFERENCE?
Yes. Over the past two years, attendance rates have increased and the number of students with discipline issues has decreased.