Tuesday, June 8, 2010

27J makes land and water purchases to prepare for future

Despite the economic climate – even somewhat because of it – School District 27J has been able to make prudent land and water purchases that will make a difference for students and families in years to come. More good news: The district was able to make both purchases without any increase to taxpayers.

On June 1, the district purchased 73 acres that eventually will be the site of a new high school and a new middle school. Located just south and east of 136th Avenue and Yosemite Street, the site prepares 27J to meet the future secondary school needs in the fast-growing western part of the district, according to 27J Planning Manager Joy Gerdom.

“We have been trying to find suitable and affordable land west of the South Platte River for more than seven years” to accommodate future growth, she said. “As development heated up, the opportunity to find land with sufficient acreage became more remote. It became critical to find appropriate land for these secondary schools as soon as possible.”

The acreage was purchased from BMC Holdings, LLC and SEC Holdings, LLC for $2.625 million. It appraised at $2.630 million.

As part of the agreement, BMC and SEC received 10 acres 27J had purchased in 1987 just southwest of the new acreage; and 27J was credited with its $350,000 value. The 10 acres had been planned for a new elementary school but land-development patterns created opportunities for more appropriately located elementary school sites that were dedicated to the district by developers. So the property was no longer needed for a future elementary school site.

The remainder of the purchase was made possible with funds provided by some developers (in lieu of donating land for a school within their developments) and interest received on the 2006 bond funds.

Gerdom reported that, when a bond issue is approved, the high school will be built first to ease the greater need. “If a bond passes in 2011, it could be a fast-paced build to open a school by 2013,” she said. It is possible that the school could not be completed until the 2014-2015 school year.

“Our analysis shows that a high school in that location would relieve crowding in both Brighton High School and Prairie View High School,” both of which draw students from the west part of the district.

Water rights
The acquisition of water also is an important part of strategic growth planning in 27J.

The South Adams County Water and Sanitation District requires all developers – business, residential, governmental, educational, etc. – to bring water to the table when they plan to build in the South Adams District, Gerdom explained.
So when School District 27J discovered the opportunity to buy water resources from the SACWSD at a significant savings, the Growth Management Department set to work on it.

The purchase of 135 equivalent residential units (ERUs) from the water district provided “an unforeseen and unprecedented opportunity to acquire water resources at a savings of nearly 50 percent from the value of the last water purchase,” said Terry Lucero, director of Growth Management.

The water purchase will meet the need for water in the southern part of the district well beyond 2016, Gerdom said. Indeed, that amount of water is enough to support water needs for two new elementary schools and one high school. In other words, 3,100 students.

The price was at an “unprecedented low of $3,555 per ERU,” she said. District 27J’s most recent water purchase was for $7,000 per ERU … and water costs have been as high as $8,000 per ERU.

The recession brought the price down, she explained. Developers who had purchased shares in the SACWSD anticipating their own projects were beginning to default on their obligations to make annual payments on the mass purchase of water resources for SACWSD. The shares reverted back to SACWSD ownership, and the low demand brought the pricing down.

The purchase was not without challenges … including financing the water resources for future use. Water purchases are generally completed when the school district secures voter-approved funding to build a school.

Despite that, the 27J Capital Facility Fee Foundation board determined that the acquisition of water resources would comply with foundation’s purpose of “acquiring, constructing or expanding school facilities.”

The School District 27J Board of Education voted to approve a draw request for up to $600,000 to be forwarded to the CFF Foundation board to make the water purchase. The total purchase of 135 shares at $479,902 was completed in March. Thanks to the developer contributions to the School District 27J Capital Facility Fee Foundation, the purchase was made possible without any cost to the 27J taxpayers.

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