Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who really owns that county school?

Officials with the Knox County Commission and the Board of Education in the next month or so will meet to discuss which party's name gets placed on the deeds of four elementary schools.

But, at this point, it looks like there's just no way the BOE will get official ownership of at least one of them.

Here's the deal: The school board recently approved a resolution that puts the deeds to Brickey-McCloud, Amherst and Gibbs elementary schools and the yet-to-be-built “Southwest” Elementary School in its name, rather than the county's name.

Officials say – and you can find the story right smack here – that it's just in case the buildings are sold as surplus property then it will be clear that the money goes back to the school system. (There's a whole 'nother debate going on about whether a name on the deed really means jack, and that's coming.)

The resolution was then brought to the county commission, which balked. Instead, members said the newly formed education committee will more than likely take up the issue in February.

Still, at this point, it doesn't appear that the deed for Southwest Elementary School, which doesn't actually have an official name, will be transferred.

You see, the county took out Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, or QZABs, to build it. In fact the county issued $29 million worth in fiscal year 2011, according to finance records. The Southwest piece is a little over $15 million and the rest is for various other schools.

Now the problem. If the county turns the deed over, then it would violate the loan agreement (which says you can't transfer property) and risk losing the entire $29 million. That would mean heading back out to the market and issuing more bonds, possibly at a higher interest rate.

In other words, it would create a big headache.

As for the other three pieces of property. I think it's possible that the commission approves the resolution to transfer the deeds. But, I would not be surprised if a new issue comes up: Whether it really matter whose name is on them.

There is some talk that it is all “county” property, meaning any money from surplus school property – even if the deed says “Knox County Board of Education “ – goes into the county's general fund for the administration and commission to spend.

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