School system defends land purchase
In the wake of much public scrutiny, the Newton County School System is defending its decision to buy 117.77 acres off Crowell Road to build a replacement school for Newton High.
Some have questioned the $2,276,000 price paid for the lot, while others wondered whether the property was in the family of former school board officials.
The site was valued at $1,874,700 for the 2010 tax year, according to the Newton County Tax Assessor’s office, but the tax assessment value and an appraisal for market value are different.
“The tax assessment value and a professionally done appraisal related to market value and are different and it is market value that drives purchase,” said Superintendent Gary Mathews, who cited board counsel Kent Campbell.
The market value for the property as of April 21, 2010, was an estimated $2,276,600, right at the purchase price, according to an appraisal letter from Paige Alexander of Alexander Appraisals. Alexander did a complete analysis of the property, which is located along Crowell and Jack Neely roads on land lots 164 and 165 in the 10th land district of the county.
Mathews also said that the land was not purchased from the family of former board member Cathy Dobbs, as was rumored, and had not been owed by any member of the Dobbs family since 1998. The land was previously owned by J.D. Wyatt Farm and Burnt Pine Partners LLC from 1998 to October 2010 when the land was purchased by First State Bank of Northwest Arkansas, the entity from whom the board purchased the land. The land also has water and sewer service and two entrances.
The site was purchased with capital project funds, which can be used for building but not for things such as salaries or books. Those
funds will be combined with Special Local Option Sales Tax money to build the school, which is expected to open in 2013.
The state requires that a property be at least 100 acres in order to build a high school. The new school will have room for 2,500 students. There will also be room on the property for ball fields and practice fields.
“ From my observation of the proceedings, the board authorized its attorney to commit due diligence regarding this land purchase,” said Mathews in an e-mail. “ He did so including securing the services of a professional appraiser ( Alexander Appraisals) who validated the purchase price ultimately paid by the BOE. Importantly, as the record will show, the bank bid almost $ 45,000 more at the foreclosure sale based on their own appraisal at the time,” he said. “ The whole notion of underhanded, in this case, is echoed by a few who do not understand what has transpired to date, especially who owned what land when and the difference between Newton County Tax Assessment Value and a professionally done appraisal related to market value.”
See Covnews. com for a letter to the school board from the property appraiser.