Voters haven't wavered in their support of Fort Wayne Community Schools' quest to renovate and upgrade buildings – at least according to incomplete ballot totals Tuesday night.
About 74% of voters who came to the polls supported the third phase of Repair FWCS, a $130 million bond program that will lead to major renovations to Wayne High School and Blackhawk and Miami middle schools as well as additions to Levan Scott Academy and Franke Park Elementary School.
Twenty-eight other FWCS buildings also will benefit from such investments as corridor and lighting improvements, secure entrances, accessibility upgrades, window and roof replacements and a temperature controls upgrade.
Although results Tuesday looked promising, the 30,000-student district was waiting to celebrate until the final tally.
“Obviously, until the mail-in ballots are counted, we don't want to bank on this, but, yeah, it's looking good,” FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said by phone Tuesday night. “We're feeling very optimistic.”
Only the results of machine voting in Allen County were made public Tuesday. As many as 38,000 absentee ballots were to be counted by hand beginning today.
Members of the Repair FWCS political action committee traded emails as the results trickled in, Stockman said.
The night ended with 10,400 votes in support of the public question and 3,607 votes against it.
Stockman acknowledged Repair FWCS referendums in 2012 and 2016 were successful – they garnered 66% and 72% of the votes, respectively – but said those wins didn't guarantee a third.
“Fort Wayne has done a good job supporting us,” Stockman said. “We appreciate this community recognizes the value of its public schools.”
FWCS has maintained the 2020 referendum will have little effect on homeowners, with the district keeping overall tax rates at 30.28 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. That is the same rate FWCS has held since 2012.
The district plans to use a phased approach to complete the improvements, which likely will take five years, officials have said. This strategy should help the district maintain its promised tax rate.
Improvements should start in 2022, officials have said.
Assuming, that is, the mail-in ballots favor FWCS.
The official, final result “can't come soon enough,” Stockman said.