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SCVNews.com | Hart District Wants Its Land Back | 05-16-2013
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wsh_logo_best_hartdistrictAccording to Hart District officials, the district’s governing board voted in favor to request the transfer of two land property titles from the Santa Clarita Valley Facilities Foundation to the district Wednesday.

Board member Robert Jensen voting against the resolution in the 3-1 vote.

Both of the South Summit and Hasley-Sloan properties are still owned by the Santa Clarita Valley Facilities Foundation, which was formed in 1998 to help the William S. Hart Union High School District acquire properties for new school sites, namely Golden Valley High School, among others, said Rick Patterson, a local attorney, founding member and current president of the foundation.

“What our position has always been is to achieve the highest and greatest value of any property that we have so we can provide the greatest benefit to the school district,” Patterson said.  “We look forward to engaging in the analysis and discussion that would maximize the value of those assets.”

The remaining properties are a 70-acre lot known as the Hasley-Sloan property in Castaic and approximately 22 acres near Golden Valley Road and Sierra Highway, which is referred to as the South Summit property in district documents.

The foundation was created to help the district negotiate around the complicated process that can be involved with school-site selection, which often can put a school district at the mercy of a developer, Patterson said.

The foundation also has been there to help the Hart district provide a long-term strategy for  school sites and its land acquisitions, he said.

Hart district board President Joe Messina, who’s also on the foundation’s board through his role with the district, said he asked for the resolution so the board could look into its remaining options with the lands that the foundation acquired for the district.

“We want those (properties) back — we want any other assets because according to their charter and their bylaws, when they dissolve, all of their assets come back to the Hart district,” Messina said, mentioning “a couple hundred thousand dollars in credits with the county and they have a little over a million dollars in the bank in liquid assets” as the other assets.

A combination of factors put the resolution in the best interests of the district, said Gail Pinsker, Hart district spokeswoman.

“The purpose of the Facilities Foundation was to purchase and hold properties for future school sites, which we don’t see a need for in the foreseeable future,” she said, citing the “declining enrollments that we and our elementary school partners are facing in the next few years.”

“Additionally, the Facilities Foundation is not exempt from property taxes, while the district is exempt, and can hold the property until the market is such that the district can sell the property,” she added.

The property taxes on the land is roughly $50,000 per year, she said. “So with all of that in mind, the board also is considering now dissolving the Facilities Foundation because the original need has been met.”

The foundation has yet to receive the official directive from the Hart district, which made the move late Wednesday night, Patterson said. However, it will continue to do what it’s always tried to do, which is to act in the best interests of the district, he added.

“There’s always multiple reasons to consider what’s in the best interest of the district. We’ve gone through multiple discussions to maximize the best interests,” Patterson said.

“The Santa Clarita Valley Facilities Foundation is a private-public partnership, and as such, we have a responsibility to do what’s in the best interest of our beneficiary — and our beneficiary is the Hart district. And as such, we invite and seek input regarding our assets.”

“The next step is, there will be a Facilities Foundation meeting where (Hart board) President Joe Messina and I will be presenting the Hart district governing board’s position, or directives, to the Facilities Foundation,” said Hart district Superintendent Rob Challinor. “So they clearly understand the direction of the Hart governing board,  which is essentially to have the properties deeded back to the hart district.”

Robert Jensen could not be reached for comment on this story.

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