UTICA — Many school districts in the state are facing budget deficits, and few budget items are escaping school officials’ notice. For example, according to a Detroit News editorial, Utica Community Schools found that it had a valuable asset on its books: 65 acres of land. The sale of this parcel is expected to bring the district up to $11 million in one-time income and potential future revenue growth. The parcel is zoned for residential use, and its development will bring the district not just new property taxes, but new state education funding for the schoolchildren whose families move to the homes to be built in the area.
Utica Board of Education President Carol Klenow said that the choice between selling the land and cutting education programs was an easy one. “During these difficult economic times, we need to remember that we can’t turn children away and tell them to come back when times are better,” Klenow told the News. “Our children have a right to a rigorous instructional program.”
Other state educational institutions are pursuing a similar course. Avondale Schools sold 1.4 acres of its land for division into residential lots which should net the district about $405,000. It is looking at selling another 6.5 acres. Schoolcraft College is leasing 45 acres of its land for commercial use, an arrangement that is expected to bring the college $75 million over the next 75 years.
Lesson learned? Sell land before laying off teachers and hurting students. The result can be better budget health and a growing community.