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BOE paid appraised land value

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System paid the appraised value for land to build a replacement for Newton High School, documents show.

Nearly 118 acres of land on Crowell Road North was appraised by Paige Alexander of Alexander Appraising LLC of Covington in April 2010 and estimated to be valued at $2,276,600. The figure is said to be her opinion of the present day, as-is market value of the property, according to the appraisal, which was requested by the Newton County Board of Education.

The appraised value takes into consideration Newton County's rate of population growth; the median value of owner-occupied housing units in 2009, estimated at $130,600; the unemployment rate for the county in 2009, at just less than 10 percent; the median household income for 2008 of $53,415 (greater than the statewide median); and the county's issuance of 44 single family building permits in 2009, after issuing 167 in 2008, about 800 in 2007 and nearly 2,000 in 2002 and 2005, among other data, according to the appraisal.

It also noted that the land is irregular in shape, the topography is level to rolling and general access is considered good because of its proximity to Covington, Conyers and Interstate 20. Additionally, utilities are available.

Recent land sales in Newton County also were compared -- 52 acres of land at Ga. Highway 162 and Lovers Lane were sold for nearly $2.7 million in January 2007; 87 acres of land on Iris Drive were sold for $2.5 million in June 2006; and 111 acres of land on Harold Dobbs Road were sold for $5.25 million in July 2006.

The appraisal also showed that in 2007, the school board purchased nearly 24 acres of land at the corner of Jack Neely and Harold Dobbs roads for nearly $1.1 million, or $45,000 per acre, from Neely Farms Family Partnership LLP.

In December, the school board approved the purchase of the land, which is located along Crowell and Jack Neely roads on two parcels, for the same price as the appraised value, or $19,331 per acre. The land was purchased from First State Bank of Northwest Arkansas.

The parcels' tax value for the 2010 tax year is $1,874,700, according to the Newton County Tax Assessor's Office. Sherri Davis Viniard, director of Public Relations at NCSS, pointed out that a tax assessment value and an appraisal for market value are calculated differently; she recently added that two experienced bankers and a real estate broker that made up the school board felt the purchase price was fair market value.

The land comes with water and sewer, school officials added.

It was purchased with capital project funds, which may be used only for the purposes of building a new facility and not for materials or items budgeted under the system's general operating fund, as required by state law, Viniard said.

NCSS plans to bid a contract for building of the new school in the spring. The school would be scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2013-14 school year; the current NHS facility is being phased out of state funding and cannot be renovated using state money.