Should Ramona Unified close a school?
By Bob Graeff, Ramona Unified School District Superintendent
(This is the third in a series about fiscal issues related to the Ramona Unified School District. The first appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of the Sentinel and the second in the Nov. 14 issue. They also are on the Sentinel website, www.ramonasentinel.com.)
Following a board action last spring, the school district has received a much-anticipated comprehensive study from a highly regarded property consultant detailing the income potential of five specific district-owned properties. That report is posted on the district website for all to see and was presented to the board earlier this week.
Although it will be the board’s responsibility over the next few months to determine “next steps,” here is what the report says:
The “40 acres” of vacant land just north of Ramona High is thought to be the most valuable income property for the district. Although this property contains more than 17 acres of vernal pools and wetlands, the property as a whole has potential value for the construction of residences and for environmental mitigation. In the current market, the property is estimated to be in the range of $2.2 to $3.2 million.
The Old Ramona Community School site (located on Montecito Road) has very little resale value for a variety of reasons unique to the site. But it does have value in terms of leasing the property. A portion of the facility is currently leased to the North Inland Special Education Region Special Education Local Plan Area (NISER SELPA) while another potential tenant has recently expressed interest with the District, as well.
Behind Hanson Elementary School are 32 acres of raw land south of the campus. According to the study, this land could be subdivided and marketed for residential construction and has a potential value of $786,000 to the district.
The vacant property in the San Diego Country Estates located on Bellemore Street consists of five undeveloped acres. Although this property may have use to the district for FFA or other school purposes, it has very little commercial value at the present time.
Finally, the study reviewed the potential value of the five square blocks of property stretching along Ninth Street from Ramona Elementary to the Pop Warner football field, including the District Office, Montecito High School, Head Start, and the bus yard.
In detailed fashion, the study values this entire property potentially at $1.5 million — but cites the very real challenges of transporting the current student population at RE to other schools and the additional costs of relocating the large amount of administrative services to another location. The study estimates the one-time cost of purchasing additional school buses for the displaced RE students at $700,000 and the annual cost of operating the buses at $350,000.
Although no estimates are provided to relocate the current administrative services, the bus yard, and Montecito High to other locations, the author of the study concludes that “these costs would offset the projected savings in closing or repurposing” the RE site. In other words, a closure of our oldest school site at this time is not recommended.
The board’s highest priority this year is to improve both short-term and long-term fiscal health. With this study in hand, the recent experience of running a bond campaign, the preview of the next state budget this January, and significant long-term debt, the board is now equipped to take decisive steps to improve the district’s financial position. Public input is always welcome!
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