By Bob Graeff
, Ramona Unified School District Superintendent
(Following is the second in a series about fiscal issues related to the Ramona Unified School District. The first, titled "How does Ramona Unified spend its maintenance money," appeared in the Oct. 31 issue and is on the Sentinel website.)
As the district continues to explore ways to improve its long-term fiscal health, one of the most challenging areas of potential opportunity lies in property management. With two vacant pieces of property, one former school site, and 10 current school sites, we are asked frequently about disposing of property to make ends meet during these tough financial times.
So here is what the district has done in the past few years.
The “old Ramona Community School” on Montecito Road north of Main Street was vacated in 2006 when a new, larger site was built at Ramona Street and Hanson Lane. That older property was made available for lease by our board in 2008. While that former school site has served a wide variety of purposes hosting various government agencies and private organizations, we finally completed a five-year lease agreement with the staff from the North Inland Special Education Region Special Education Local Plan Area last spring. The SELPA’s offices and training rooms are now located on a portion of that older site and generate between $32,000 and $35,000 annually for the district.
The 40 acres of vacant land behind Ramona High underwent substantial review from 2004 to 2008 as the district sought to identify the environmentally sensitive portion of the property while making plans to expand the high school’s parking and athletic fields on the buildable portion of the property. As priorities have changed and financial issues have emerged, the district has been active in seeking parties interested in buying or leasing both portions of the property. In recent years, we have received multiple appraisals and met with potential buyers for one or both portions of the land. Potential suitors included San Diego County, a large utility company, a developer for a “big box” chain store, and developers of environmental mitigation banks. Unfortunately, no firm offer has yet been proposed to the district.
On Bellemore Street in the Estates, the district owns five vacant acres adjacent to a similar piece of property owned by the Estates homeowners’ association. With the understanding that residences cannot be built on our portion of the property, the district has been in negotiations with SDCEA for the past five years to sell or barter the property to the association. Despite many creative proposals, SDCEA and the district have not yet come to terms on a final solution.
All other district properties currently house active school sites, including the district office.
While school closure has recently become a hot topic in the community, this concept will be reviewed more fully in an upcoming article in this series.
The district commissioned a detailed facilities study several months ago and is due to receive that comprehensive report in the next few weeks. The study will focus not only on the properties identified here, but will also make recommendations related to additional school sites and offices. Once received, our current plans are to make that report available to the public in its entirety.
In summary, the community can rest assured district staff continues to take a very active, yet quiet, approach in generating potential revenue from our real property assets. It is our hope that as the economy improves, we can benefit from a renewed interest by parties wishing to purchase or lease our available land.