Watching the Finances

The request to convey “A-Building,” formerly known as Jefferson Academy, from the elected school board to the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), as “paid in full,” continues. The taxpaying public should not be paying the elected school board $2,000 dollars per month for “A-Building,” or any other building the taxpaying public already owns. This payment is unethical if not illegal; ref: s. 1013.28, Fla. Stat., which specifies in part, “…district school board… shall take diligent measures to dispose of educational property only in the best interests of the public.”
Records indicate, upon vacating “A-Building,” the elected school board identified “A-Building,” as “surplus,” and “no longer needed by the school board.” Contrary to Florida law, the elected school board allowed, “A-Building,” to fall into disrepair; to become dilapidated and home to hundreds of pigeons resulting in millions of dollars in damage.
Members of the public and the BOCC stepped in to salvage this historic building, Florida’s first brick school building. Subsequently, the elected school board demanded from the BOCC, a lump sum payment of $12,000 dollars and monthly installments for an option to purchase “A-Building,” for $480,000 dollars; option expires June 30, 2030. What? How is this “agreement,” in the best interest of the public? When the public has owned “A-Building,” since 1852.
Interestingly, this “agreement,” specifies this “option,” “shall not be recorded in Public Records.”
Furthermore, dynamics have changed. The school district is chartered and is known officially as “Somerset School District.” The elected school board, which has not been repealed by statute yet, has a vast surplus of buildings, tracts of land and lots (e.g. cash).
This vast surplus is evident by the elected school board actions of maintaining a 12,452 sq., ft., office, with a $42,821 dollar per year utility budget, for two full time employees. And, is a $300,000 dollar prime commercial location with five acres (that could be generating another $4,500 plus dollars per year in county tax), really needed to park 10 school buses?
The school board has another suitable location with garages and ample parking. Sell it. And, then the crown jewel: our elected school board leased 40 acres of prime land to a Leon County citizen, for $1,650 per year, for eleven years, to generate personal wealth.
This tract of land is valued over $200,000 dollars and if sold could have generated another $3,000 plus dollars per year in county taxes (more than the $1,650 lease price). It remains deeded to the school board, therefore its tax free for the lessee.
In short, our elected school board has provided a private, for-profit citizen, a tax free shelter for at least 11 years. Best interest of the public? No. Not. Never. Especially, when we, the taxpaying public are paying $2,000 dollars or more per month for “A-Building.”
Malfeasance? Neglect of Duty? The elected school board does not need to lease any more land. Liquidate (sell), all school board owned property not leased to Somerset School District. Our elected school board needs to exit the “land management” business and focus on the education business.
In an attempt to regain control of our school system, which was removed by Florida’s Department of Education for malfeasance and neglect of duty (allegedly). Once sold, these properties could be generating revenue (e.g. taxes), for the county and possible jobs for our citizens. We need a 3/5 vote and Chair Bill Brumfield’s signature.
Stay tuned for more “Watching the Finances” every other Friday in the Jefferson County Journal. Join us. Your comments and support are important.