BY BUDDY NEVINS
The Broward School Board is paying 20 percent over the average appraisal for a vacant building whose owner was no longer using it.
Because the Board wanted to pay more than the appraised value, it required approval by more than a simple majority under state law. Board members fell in line easily, passing the purchase by 7-2 earlier this month.
The building owner, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, had a lot of political clout on its side. The group’s supporters are some of the biggest campaign contributors in South Florida including entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga, developer Ron Bergeron and auto sales tycoons Rick Case, the Moran family and Ted Morse.
Case spoke at a Board meeting in favor of the deal.
The building was appraised twice, for $1.5 million and $2.5 million.
The average appraisal was $2,005,500.
Yet, the Boys and Girls Club is being paid $2.4 million for the 18,257 square foot building.
The land is not part of the deal: Broward schools already owns it!
A complex deal cooked up in 2003 during Superintendent Frank Till’s administration allowed the Boys & Girls Clubs to construct and own the building. The school system received $1-a-year for the land.
Guess where Till landed when he was fired as superintendent in 2006? He was hired as chief executive of the Boys & Girls Clubs!
Till is long gone from that job. But the building remained on school land and Boys and Girls Clubs demanded a premium price for it.
Nora Rupert: Money would have paid for five more teachers
More galling to School Board member Nora Rupert is that the building has been vacant for years. The youths who once used it moved from the area after a nearby mobile home park closed in 2009.
“We were in a power position…They needed to sell the place,” Rupert argued at the April 23 meeting.
Then Rupert pointed out something that should alarm any taxpayer: The school system doesn’t use a real estate expert or a professional negotiator to hammer out property deals.
Board member Patti Good also was upset the system doesn’t use professionals to negotiate for property.
School Board staff told Board members that the property was worth the price because it would be used to expand technical training programs for non-college bound students.
Staffers also excused the expense because the money came from a state workforce development fund and not from the local budget.
Rupert fired back: “If that price came down $200,000, that’s five more (technical training) teachers.”
Rick Case and club chief executive Brian Quail gave two more reasons for paying so much for the property.
One, the Boys and Girls Clubs has its own appraisal for $3 million.
Two, the Boys and Girls Clubs does good work.
“This isn’t a donation,” Rupert said. She said it was “an acquisition,” and the schools should handle money more carefully.
Rupert and Good were the only votes against the sale.
The School Board hopes to get a new bond issue approved by voters next year for construction and land acquisition.
Board members are making the job of selling a bond issue harder with deals such as this one.