Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2001

School district reaches land agreements

August 9, 2001

The De Soto school board members received good news during a meeting that saw them take a decisive step toward a $91.2 million bond issue.

John Vratil, the district's attorney, told the board an agreement has been reached with Rodrock Industries that will provide additional land at the district's east campus and property for new elementary school that will replace Woodsonia.

In a deal that is to close next month, the district will trade 2.5 acres at Woodsonia for a site for a new elementary school, Vratil said. The land will be leased back to the district for $1 a year, which will pay property taxes on the property until the new school is built.

With the construction of Woodsonia's replacement, Rodrock will purchase the remaining 11.9 acres at the elementary site of $1.16 million, minus the cost of razing the building, Vratil said.

In a separate agreement, the district has negotiated the purchase of a new elementary school at 55th Street and Clare Road with TWD Construction for $375,000, Vratil said. The agreement is contingent on TWD getting title to the land, which Vratil said is supposed to happen next month.

Finally, Vratil said the district is nearing resolution a property conundrum at the old Monticello Kindergarten.

The oldest wing of the building on the site was built in 1923 and was acquired by the school district when it expanded to parts of Shawnee in the 1960s. The district closed the school in 1998 and would like to sell the land and use the money to buy property elsewhere. The problem is that the landowners originally made the property available for school use put a stipulation on the deed that requires the land to "revert back to the tract of land of which it was originally a part."

The original tract of land has since been subdivided into approximately 50 separate tracts of land owned by 90 different people. According to the law, each of the 90 residents could claim ownership to an equal portion of the two acres if the land was sold.

After unintentionally taking court action to get clear title last summer, the board withdrew its suit and met with adjacent property owners.

At that meeting Vratil explained courts would eventually reward the land to the district. Those in the audience that had discussed the matter with their attorneys agreed.

Subsequently, the district sent registered letters to the adjacent landowners asking them to sign quick claims, which would cede their interest in the land to the school district. The district has followed through with its promise to outright ownership of the property in court.

Vratil said a large majority of the landowners signed the quick claims. Sixteen failed to take any action, and he anticipates the court will find them in default. Two couples did file answers. Vratil said he would seek to negotiate a solution with them.

"It's not financially feasible to pursue it for them or for us," he said. "There is just not that much land involved."

In other business, the board approved the 2001-2002 budget. The budget will increase the district's property tax levy from 67.953 mills to 73.11 mills. With that mill levy, the owner of a $100,000 house would pay $841 in annual property taxes to the school district.

Deputy superintendent Sharon Zoellner said the increase came from increased debt the district is taking from the latest phase of the 1999 bond issue. But, Zoellner noted, the coming year's mill levy is slightly less than that of 1999-2000, indicating the district has been successful in maintaining its levy near the 70 mill level despite the need for new schools and facilities.

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