Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the democracy movement in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), makes a historic visit to the city on Tuesday.
Fort Wayne has one of the highest populations of Burmese refugees in the world, many of them political dissidents who – like Suu Kyi – oppose the military junta that rules Myanmar. After holding her under house arrest for years, the Myanmar government released Suu Kyi in 2010 and allowed her to seek election to Parliament, an office she won earlier this year.
About 7,000 Burmese are expected at hear her speak at the Memorial Coliseum, and Suu Kyi will deliver her speech in Burmese. The doors open at 7:30 a.m., and her speech begins at 9 a.m.
Budget time for FWCS …
Fort Wayne Community Schools board members get their first look at the proposed 2013 budget today.
District officials will propose nearly $279 million in spending, an increase of about 5.1 percent over 2012 overall; about 3.2 percent in the property tax-supported funds.
If approved, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would pay an additional $33 dollars next year. The amount includes new debt incurred for the districts $119 million building project, approved by voters in last Mays referendum.
A portion of the increase comes from changes at the state level. The General Assembly changed the capital projects fund formula, allowing schools to increase the levy in the pension bond fund to correct the formula. The state also changed the formula for replacing school buses. It had been based on a formula that allowed for replacement of buses after 12 years; it now is based on the total value of the districts bus fleet, divided by 12. The change allows FWCS to buy just 17 of the 34 new buses needed.
A public hearing on the general fund, bus replacement fund and capital projects fund budgets is set for Oct. 8, with budget adoption scheduled for Oct. 22. The spending plan wont be final until the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance issues a budget order in February.
School budget officials across the state are uneasy over what lawmakers will do in the next session. The current school funding formula is set to expire in June. Lawmakers may decide to move from a calendar-year budget to a fiscal-year plan, requiring schools to adjust spending in mid-year. The state dollars determined by the funding formula are the primary source of school revenue – nearly $208 million of FWCS proposed $279 million budget this year.
… and for City Council …
City Controller Pat Roller and other members of Mayor Tom Henrys staff will present the proposed 2013 city budget to the City Council on Tuesday.
A political battle over Henrys proposed tax increase seems likely, especially after three council members – John Crawford, Mitch Harper and Russ Jehl – announced their opposition to any tax increase. Part of that political fight will likely include how the city should use the Legacy money from the lease and sale of City Light to I&M.
Though they have yet to be discussed, the public should consider two factors important in this political battle:
Use of the Legacy money for tax relief or any other purpose will need agreement between the mayor and the City Council. The mayor cannot spend the money without council approval; the council cannot appropriate the money without the mayors requesting it.
Any property tax increase will fall hardest on owners of less-expensive homes. Most homes worth more than $100,000 have already hit the property tax cap, so only homes worth less than $100,000 will see a tax increase.
… and County Council
Sheriff Ken Fries says he needs about $1.6 million more in 2013, most of that for inmate medical care and new squad cars.
County Council members have recommended several ways Fries can save money, including reducing the number of officers and turning some duties of sworn officers to civilians. Both sides will have to give up something when they meet again Thursday.
A legislative study committee examining operation of the embattled Department of Child Services meets today for its third session. Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who recently announced his office will take over appellate cases involving DCS, is scheduled to address the committee, which is co-chaired by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.
The panel also is expected to hear a presentation from DCS officials on financial issues involving service providers, as well as procedures concerning the determination of placement for children. Critics have argued that the agency is leaving some children in danger by allowing them to remain at home instead of in residential care.