The decision by Hartford
Joint 1 School District to purchase the former Froedtert Clinic
building on West Sumner Street has Hartford officials concerned.
At a June 24 special district meeting, voters and school officials
agreed to purchase the 29,844-square-foot building for $750,000.
Officials said some space could serve as a location for the
district’s administrative offices. They also hope to rent an area to
the Cooperative Educational Service Agency for an at-risk student
City Administrator Gary Koppelberger, in a memo to other city
officials June 27, expressed surprise and concern about the
purchase. He said they learned of the deal after reading a story in
the Daily News.
“No contact between the city and the School District occurred prior
to the announcement of the transaction and there does not appear to
have been any communication with the Common Council’s school
district liaison,” Koppelberger said. “The School District may not
have consulted the city prior to the transaction, but this afternoon
(June 27) it contacted the city assessor about a tax exemption.”
Koppelberger said he could see advantages and disadvantages to the
city from the sale.
“It removes a large retail facility located on our only major retail
thoroughfare (Highway 60) and transforms the space into a
noncommercial use,” Koppelberger said. “For this reason we are
typically uncomfortable with tax exempt uses on a state highway. On
the other hand it removes an empty storefront, which ought to be
good news for everyone else with one.”
John Stellmacher, the
district’s director of business services, said the night of the
special meeting the purchase would have “zero impact” on taxes.
Koppelberger took issue with Stellmacher’s
statement and said it didn’t tell the whole story. He said this
year the property paid $26,572 in property taxes of which $8,528
was paid to the city.
“The city share of this tax loss is more
than three-quarters of a cent on the mill rate annually which we
must recover by other means,” Koppelberger said. “Members of the
council have complained ... when city staff proposals have
included removing taxable properties from the rolls and have
also argued that tax impact decisions made by the city should be
coordinated with other taxing entities, like school boards.”
On the other hand, Koppelberger said, a
similar building would “cost more to construct than the sale
price of the West Sumner site. If it makes the school district
more efficient perhaps that’s the basis for the ‘zero impact’
theory mentioned in the article.”
School Superintendent Mark Smits said the
deal made sense to the district.
“We have a building they wanted $1.5 million
for and we were able to purchase it for $750,000.”
Smits said if the district had pursued
constructing a similar size building, it would have cost close
to $2 million and the district would have faced more red tape to
have the building meet the district’s needs.
“We’ve been unsuccessful in past referendums
to build more space,” Smits said. “We had to purchase a building
a while back for the early learning center and we rent space at
three other locations. We’re growing and we need more space.”
Smits said the city has never consulted with
the School District when it approved a new low-income housing
district or new subdivisions.
“That all adds to our capacity,” Smits said.
“That costs us more money when additional children come to our
Other city officials
did not return phone calls before press time.