Thursday, June 12, 2008

Selling Short on Stone Street

Curious. The Fayetteville School District paid good money for an appraisal of $61.28 million for the current 40-acre high school campus adjacent to the University of Arkansas, then the school board took Superintendent Bobby New's advice and voted 6-1 to offer the property up to the UA for $59 million, a cool $2,280,000 below appraisal. Last week the University of Arkansas, led by Trustees Jim Lindsey and John Tyson, considered Chancellor John White's suggestion to pay a premium price and came back with a lowball offer of $50 million.

Deal breaker? Apparently not. The group that has been pushing to sell off the high school and build out on Deane Solomon is not insulted but inspired. They say "take the $50 million," because "time is of the essence," and we might not ever have the chance to dump the high school for $11.28 million below appraisal (and even more below replacement value). They want the school board to sell quickly and take the loss before some of the members finally give thoughtful consideration to the advantages of building a world-class high school on the current site.

What's the hurry to take the big loss? They say "the offer appears to have been made with some reservation since the UofA has many other buildings that will need refurbishing in the near future and the $50 Million could easily be spent on those projects, so time is of the essence." Very interesting but not persuasive. They want you to be afraid that the UA will raise tuition and take on another $50 million in bond debt to fix the surplus of buildings they already own, so we should make sure they spend that money to buy more buildings from the school district. Brilliant.

Curiouser and curiouser. "So what's next? Encourage the School Board to act quickly to complete the negotiations for the sale. We believe the acceptance of this offer would get this phase of the process put to bed," sings the lead soprano in the Cowbird Chorus. No doubt it would. Sensible options would vanish quicker than the $11.28 million. Forever.

Why bother encouraging the school board to do anything? Superintendent Bobby New and Board President Steve Percival will do whatever they want, regardless of public opinion. They didn't ask you before they bought the Deane Solomon property. They didn't ask you before they decided to add 9th grade to the high school. They didn't ask you before they decided on one mega-high school. They don't care that you think a world-class school should be built on the current campus. They know what's best. Just shut up and pay your taxes.

Your only chance to make your opinion count is the September School Board election and the property tax millage increase proposal they want you to pass.

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