About that vacant old school?

The Kent School District (KSD) again seeks replacement levies to help fund our schools. I have no problem voting yes to continue replacement education funding as I have had four kids go through the district.

But I do have a problem with KSD asking for money when an asset has been sitting vacant for over eight years.

That asset is the old Panther Lake Elementary School. The property was donated 111 years ago in 1906 by the Parmenter family in which the donation’s clause was forgotten about over the years that if the land is no longer being used as a school, it would revert to the previous owners.

In 2009 the parcel was appraised at $3.2 million, with $1.5 million for the land and an additional $1.7 million for the buildings. Eventually the Parmenter family heirs (44) settled for $445,000 and KSD agreed to dedicate the gym at the new Panther Lake Elementary School. A bargain for KSD, but funds that were paid for by taxpayers in part from previous levies. Back in October 2009, the Kent Reporter reported that money from the sale of the property was included in planning documents as a source of funding for future capital improvements. What is the current appraisal of the property in 2018 (Kent Reporter?).

Why has this property been sitting vacant so long? Other than the aborted sale attempt this past summer in 2017, why has there been no other reported attempt to sell and why is the property off the market? At the least, the property could have been repurposed for other non-commercial uses (of which not until 2017 have I seen it used for police training). There was talk of purchasing the old casino and converting it to a regional library. Seems like the old school would be a cost effective option for a library, city of Kent Parks, or other community uses that would be economically beneficial for the taxpayers.

KSD has had more than eight years to review their options for future use while doing little, but they also have the fiduciary responsibility to their customers (aka taxpayers) to implement their option of selling the property. The sale would provide much needed funding toward school budget shortfalls.

Taxpayers deserve to know how their hard earned taxes are being used, or not used, while being asked for more taxes.

– Bob Epperson

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