The finance saga continues pertaining to the $149,648.85 “Councilman Troy Avera,” project. His project, known as, “North Cherry Street Hardscape Improvements,” is a sidewalk plan primarily serving the Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant. On Tuesday, Nov. 05, 2019, Avera requested a vote to expedite his costs inflated plan after stating his $8,000 dollar projected expenditure for four park benches were “on hold for now.” Surprisingly, Council members Julie Conley and Gloria Cox supported Avera’s motion to expedite. Mayor John Jones requested a workshop be scheduled regarding Avera’s plan. In contrast, Restored Glory Christian Center, with its plan to build a new Christian center adjacent to Dollar Tree, was charged $400 dollars to meet with the city. And, is expected to pay for all improvements including fire hydrant costs, which will serve many. And, this project does not include a $149,648.85, sidewalk installed by the city. Incidentally, and unrelated to his inflated costs plan, Councilman Troy Avera has been asked to resign his position from the city council. More to come…
For now, let’s discuss “A-Building.” Formerly known as Jefferson Academy and Jefferson County High School. We, the taxpayers, are paying the Jefferson County School Board, allegedly with no schools or school district, $2,000 per month. We the taxpayers have owned this building, the first brick school building in the state of Florida, since 1852. The school board has been asked to convey “A-Building,” to the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), who is currently restoring the building with grants. The BOCC was also asked to send a formal request to transfer the deed from the “School Board,” to “Jefferson County BOCC.” This request was based on a review of public records and recent contracts. The school board recently leased an entire campus for $1 per year, and 40 acres of prime real estate for $1,650 per year, to a private citizen for profit; $137.50 per month. The entities or private citizens will pay no annual taxes. The school board leased a gym for $1 per year, and a former lunchroom for $1 per year. I do not necessarily disagree with the stated leases. The entities will be required to maintain the buildings and grounds unlike the school board, at no costs to taxpayers.
I do however take issue with disparity. The school board charges a recreational and social “not for profit” organization, $500 dollars per month, plus utilities, plus maintenance for use of the former “VoTech,” building. This should be “no charge.” Florida statutes specifies such groups can “use,” educational facilities. Chair Shirley Washington contends she “wants to be fair.” Is this fair, Chair Washington? You signed some of the leases. Such leases, and the $2,000 per month costs to taxpayers clearly demonstrate disparity, and needs to be corrected.
Additionally, the school board owns other properties that need to be sold. To produce revenue (e.g. taxes) for the county. Interestingly, these properties were shown “for sale,” until one citizen offered to purchase or lease a listed property. Superintendent Marianne Arbulu responded, “When we choose to sell property…” Did she forget her response to a public records request? When on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, she responded the properties were “for sale”?
In closing, the defunct school district needs to liquidate all owned property that is not leased to the Somerset School District. These properties could be generating revenue (e.g. taxes), for the county, and jobs for our citizens. Stay tuned. “Watching the Finances,” every other Friday in the Jefferson Journal. Join us. Your comments and support are important.
W. Clayton Tolbert