In response to possible misconceptions about a proposal to purchase the campus property it leases from Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta International School in Buckhead will host a town hall meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in its auditorium.
Last month the school announced it may purchase its campus from the district for $6.15 million and buy $2.25 million for International Baccalaureate services, school spokeswoman Courtney Fowler said in an email. The district has a $60.9 million budget shortfall, and one way to make up that deficit is to sell off some properties.
Atlanta International has rented the land from the district since 1995, and its lease expires in 2051, Fowler said. From 1932 to 1991, the district’s North Fulton High School occupied the campus, which includes a building constructed by famed architect Philip Trammel Shutze. The sale could go through as soon as the district passes its 2013-14 budget, which must be approved before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
In a letter addressed to the Atlanta Board of Education, resident Tom Tidwell wrote, “It is a huge mistake to sell the AIS property instead of using reserve funds to bridge the [fiscal 2014] deficit. It makes no sense to get rid of a unique, income-producing asset in order to keep a fungible asset (cash) that will barely keep up with inflation.”
Tidwell also wrote he feels the price the district is offering is too low based on current property values.
In an interview Friday, Atlanta International Headmaster Kevin Glass said the school leases the land for $225,000 a year and would like to own its campus property, located in the Garden Hills neighborhood.
“For us, we love Garden Hills. We love this neighborhood,” he said. “In terms of thinking long term in the lifetime of the school, we would love to own our own home and have that security and be part of the Garden Hills neighborhood forever, really.”
Glass also said the neighborhood’s residents would be comforted if Atlanta International bought the property from the district.
Though it expires in 38 years, the lease can end as soon as 2036.
“There’s an early notice clause,” Glass said. “[The district has] to let us know five years ahead of that. What they would have to do is pay us for all the unamortized improvements and investments we’ve made to the property since 1995. If they did choose to exercise that early termination clause, they would have to pay us many millions in improvements. … We invest about $1 million a year in maintaining the facilities. At last count, we’ve pulled in $20 million in investments since we moved into this place in 1995.”
The current lease rate was based on the property’s appraised value in 1994, and the rent increases every five years based on the consumer price index, Glass said.
“It was valued at just under $2 million [in 1994] and the rent was fixed based on 8 percent of its value,” he said. “In 2019 we’ll reappraise the property and adjust the rent based on the property’s value.”
Glass added “surprisingly few” people have publicly come out against the proposed campus sale.
At the town hall meeting, which is open to the public, he and the school’s board chairwoman, Deborah Sudbury, will give a brief presentation followed by a community question-and-answer session.
In an emailed response to questions about the possible property sale, district spokesman Stephen said, “The decision to sell the property will be made if and when the Atlanta Board of Education is satisfied that the sell is in the best interest of the district. A decision has not been made, and no date has been set to make this decision.
“We have proposed a solution to bring the budget into balance, which includes the sale of assets and reduced spending.”
District 4 school board member Nancy Meister, who represents Buckhead, said Monday she has read Tidwell’s letter. Meister also said she has “heard from many concerned parents, community members and taxpayers” regarding the plan to sell the property to Atlanta International.