Selling Schools Makes Sense 
By Alex Saitta 
July 24, 2011 
 
Selling Schools: 
As the school district moves into six new school buildings this year, some facilities are no longer needed. Given the school system has faced deficits the past four years and could face a fifth next year, the board is doing the best it can with the resources it has.  
 
Cutting spending and selling the school buildings (rather than raising tax rates, borrowing money or giving the buildings away) was the choice the board made to cope with the financial crunch. The hope is the proceeds from the sales will help plug deficits, keep tax rates down and will be used for things like hiring teachers, lighting classrooms or maintaining the buildings.  
 
Taxpayers Not Paying Twice: 
One such sale was the school district has sold Dacusville Elementary to the county government. The notion the taxpayers are paying twice for Dacusville Elementary or any other property the district is selling to the county or local towns is untrue. It was a shift of funds and the cost of the building from one government owned entity to another government owned entity, that did not incur a second cost to the taxpayer.  
 
The taxpayer owns the school district and the taxpayer owns the county government. In this transaction one branch of the government sold the school to another branch for $150,000. Half of that transaction is the county government paid $150,000 for the school. Some, unfortunately, are only seeing that side of the transaction and declaring the taxpayers are now paying a second time for the school.  
 
To them I ask who received the $150,000? The school district. Who owns the school district? The taxpayer. Who received that $150,000 payment? The taxpayer.  The taxpayer does not lose control, access or the potential use of that $150,000 so there is no cost to the taxpayer in this transaction.  
 
Itís like you have two checking accounts, and you write a $150,000 check against one account and deposit that check in the other account. Are you out $150,000? Of course not.  
 
What Happens When The Money Is Spent?: 
Again, there is no loss or cost to the taxpayer.   
 
Letís say the county had planned to spend that $150,000 on fixing county roads. Instead it used the $150,000 to buy Dacusville Elementary so that $150,000 goes to the school district. Now the district spends that $150,000 on hiring teachers that teach students who live in the homes of taxpayers.  
 
How is that a loss to the taxpayer in the use of that money? It isn't. Did the taxpayer lose the benefit of that $150,000? No. It received teachers' services that money it spent.   
 
Instead of getting fixed roads, the taxpayers gets teachers and education for their children. That is another way to see the transaction, in terms of a shift in services. When that $150,000 is given from the county to the school district and that money is spent, an equal amount of public county services are swapped for an equal public educational services. There is no loss to the taxpayer.  
 
I can see if the $150,000 was going to be spent on county roads and it instead was given to the school district and the district then burned the money. If the county government had kept that money, the taxpayer would have gotten fixed roads. In this case, with the school district getting the money, the taxpayer would get worthless burned paper. That would have been a loss or cost of $150,000 to the taxpayer.  
 
Let's Look At The Accounting: 
Letís assume the district had to spend $150,000 to build Dacusville Elementary in 1957. You can start with any initial cost to build the building. It doesn't change the analysis. Looking at the table, you see the cost in the school district column, in the first row.  
 
 
Cost To School District
Cost To County
DES Built in 1957
-$150,000
------
DES Sold To County in 2011
+$150,000
-$150,000
Cost To Each
$0
-$150,000
 
 
In 2011 when the county buys/ school district sells the building, the county gives the district $150,000. That is $150,000 is taken out of the county government's account and added to the districtís account.  That's the second row on the table.  
 
The cost of Dacusville Elementary to the school district is now only $0. It paid $150,000 to build it and then sold it for exactly that. It cost the county $150,000. The total cost to the taxpayer which owns both the county is still $150,000.  No change. 
 
I explained this three ways: It is a shift of money, a shift of services and shift of costs from one taxpayer owned entity to another taxpayer owned entity.  
 
Ending The Self-Serving Politics: 
Some would like us to give these properties away to the local towns or the county. There is also an ugly political side tp such property give-aways that they don't see either. Why do you think school board members in the past gave away properties for free? Sometimes the driving force was to curry political favor with their local city council and government.  
 
When Board Member A works out a deal for the district to give his local town council a building for free that is truly worth hundreds of thousands, those powerful councilmen then like Board Member A and are more likely to support and work for Board Member A in his next election.  
 
If I was all about Alex Saitta, as some say, I would have been pushing the district to give away all the properties to this or that town looking to pick up political support from powerful councilmen in return. Such give-aways are often eaten-up by political deal making that garners political support for board members without them ever having to spend a dime of their own money.  
 
Thatís an ugly for instance of how an elected official could use their position for political gain. Frankly, that needs to stop in politics.  So this board said ďNoĒ to such self-serving politics and we put the districtís financial interest in front our political interest and said ďNoĒ to such property giveaways.  
 
Were The Prices Excessive?: 
Some of those who wanted the district to give-away the properties have said the prices charged were too high. I disagree. The properties are being sold to the towns and the county government at low prices.   
 
There is no doubt the local communities have put time and money into these buildings and the football stadiums in particular. Some say that provides the justification for the board to give this or that property to the local town. I personally took this into account and it is one of the reasons I voted for selling the properties at a reduced price. However, when you look at the figures, the lion share of the money invested in these buildings and stadiums was not invested by the local PTA or booster club. It was invested by the school district or the county from Easley to Clemson, and from Pickens to Liberty.    
 
For example, less than 10 years ago, the district or county taxpayer put $710,000 into the football stadium in Pickens High. Should that stadium just be given to the town of Pickens? Is that fair to the taxpayers of Central who helped pay for that $710,000 investment in Bruce field? No. The district wanted some compensation for all the properties and those proceeds were put into the districtís general fund account where that money will be spent on things that will benefit the entire district/ county.  
 
In total more than $2 million of county taxpayer funds were invested in the four high school stadiums the past 10 years. Selling Liberty the football stadium for $100,000 or Pickens their stadium for $100,000 was not excessive given all the money that was recently put into those stadiums.  
 
And stadiums are very expensive. For instance, the district recently participated in a joint venture with Clemson, concerning one of their baseball fields. The district gave them the old Daniel ball field lights for the Clemson field and agreed to pay half of the cost to put up the lights. In return, Clemson Rec is going to let Daniel High use the field for its baseball games the next 2 years. It cost $60,000 just to put up those lights. That didnít include the cost of the lights or the power to run them. That was the cost just to install them.  
 
To the credit of the county and the cities of Liberty and Pickens, they were happy with the prices in the deals and thought they were reasonable.  
 
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