You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 10:28 a.m.

Report: Ann Arbor Public Schools' buildings worth more than $518M

By Danielle Arndt

Ann Arbor Public Schools' buildings are worth more than $518.47 million, according to a new report.


Ann Arbor Public Schools' buildings are worth more than $518 million. The Balas Administration Building, shown above, would cost $6.2 million to replace. file photo

Earlier this fall, the Board of Education requested a list of all of the properties AAPS owns in order to put "everything on the table" during this year's budget discussions.

Ann Arbor officials have estimated the district faces a budget deficit of $17 million for the 2013-14 academic year.

Executive Director of Physical Properties Randy Trent said the $518 million total was compiled using building replacement figures the district's insurance provider supplies.

"The insurance company writes a policy on the building that (it) guarantees it will pay as a replacement cost for the building, if (the building) is totally destroyed," Trent said.

A replacement cost is different than an appraisal and applies only to the buildings, not the property as a whole. But Trent said his department wanted to give the school board an idea of how much AAPS owns without incurring any additional costs.


Randy Trent

An appraisal would assign value to the total property — the land and the buildings on the land — but because public schools do not pay property taxes, there are no appraisal figures sitting in an assessor's office somewhere, Trent explained.

"An appraiser writes an appraisal for a fee," he said. "Unlike a house or a business, school district property is not given an assessed value for taxation purposes from the city (or township). We simply supplied the replacement values for the buildings because it's what we had to give the board."

Pioneer High School, which sits on 177 acres, has the highest replacement cost at $74.17 million, followed by Skyline High School at $72.36 million. Burns Park has the highest replacement cost of the elementary schools, about $8.99 million.

Aside from a 165.33-acre piece of vacant land in Missaukee County, there is one other property that AAPS owns but does not use. The former Freeman Elementary School, located at 3540 Dixboro Lane, was closed around 1984. However, Go Like the Wind Montessori School has rented the building from AAPS for nearly 25 years.

  • Read about the Missaukee County property here.

The insurance replacement cost figures are not ideal for planning purposes. The figures would provide little value if AAPS decided to close and sell a building, for example. Trent said the market would impact how much the buildings actually are worth when trying to sell any properties.

"It's the same with houses," he said. "People think their houses are worth a lot more, or they may have sunk a lot more into them than they are worth by the time they put that 'for sale' sign in the ground...

"We just thought the board probably didn't know what a big land owner it is and what a very big investment we have in our schools."

Also, when the district talks about closing a building, the sale of the property would be considered additional revenue. When attempting to balance a budget, officials look at two things: budget reductions and revenue enhancement.

The administrative and operational cost savings that could incur from closing a building would make closing a building a budget reduction, while selling property would be a revenue enhancement.

Trent estimated closing a building would save the district approximately $500,000 in salaries and utilities. Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen also released a list of potential reductions for closing a few specific buildings at Wednesday's Committee of the Whole meeting.

Closing Community High School could save the district $1.4 million in administrative, salary and operational costs. Closing one comprehensive high school could save AAPS $3 million, a middle school could save $1 million and closing three indiscriminate elementary schools could result in an estimated budget reduction of $1.5 million.

Allen said at Wednesday's meeting these estimates were thrown out on the table because board members and parents have asked during past budget talk about the "what ifs" of building closures. He said administration wanted the board to have some idea of its building operational costs.

Closing schools and the concept of redistricting has surfaced as a budget reduction possibility numerous times in the past five years, as the Ann Arbor Public Schools have encountered greater and greater financial constraints. School leaders said there currently are no recommendations on the table to close a building.

The last major reorganization of the Ann Arbor Public Schools was around 1984 when the Freeman building was closed, Trent said.

Prior to passing $188.5 million budget for 2012-13, Ann Arbor administrators suggested closing the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and combining the program with Ann Arbor Technological High School, the district's other alternative secondary education program, or housing the Clemente program in Pioneer.

The Clemente building itself, according to a facilities report, has a replacement cost of $4.125 million.

In June, AAPS officials estimated closing Clemente would result in a savings of $400,000 to the district. At Wednesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, Allen's report indicated administrators are leaning toward combining Clemente with Pioneer, for an estimated savings of $200,000, which primarily would save in administrative and utility costs.

The school board decided not to shut the doors on Clemente this past budget cycle, but instructed the administration to study all of Ann Arbor's alternative programs and to make a new recommendation for these programs in the winter of this school year.

A board report on the district's alternative programs has not been scheduled yet. At Wednesday's meeting, Superintendent Patricia Green told school trustees they could expect one "very shortly."

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

This could pose an opportunity to craft a better situation for the alternative programs - K-12. I believe that if a student attends an alternative elementary/middle school, then the only way to continue that style of instruction is to try and win the lotto for Community. It seems there is always a waiting list for these programs. If there was a way to incorporate the alternative curriculum in each of the buildings, it would create greater access and could be carried through 12th grade in the comprehensive buildings. If it is truly about things like block scheduling and style of how curriculum is delivered, then I don't know why it could not be developed. If it is about being in a stand alone building to identify as "different", then it is an expensive, elitist way to deliver the alternative.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

How about selling a couple Buildings and filling up the schools not at full capacity. How about selling Balas building and housing the different departments in other buildings like they did Rec and Ed. How about selling Clemente and Stone and moving them both into Community. How about, how about- that is the question that can't seem to be answered!


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Highest operating costs joined with the most valuable property makes selling Community High School a "no-brainer".


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Come on, that's a ridiculous headline. A building is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, not what it costs to rebuild it. Given what has happened to the value of my home I would be far better off if it burned down than if I sold it but I don't use that as a valuation.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Look, I know it's not popular to support the alternative schools in a time of financial crisis, but do the math: closing the alternative schools is just a small drop in the bucket. That's like saying fix the federal budget by not supporting PBS. Sure, of course, it would save money, but the costs of how that would affect the students and families who benefit from those schools are much higher and harder to measure. Find other ways. And before you think closing any of the alternatives are a good idea, at least go take a tour of each one and see what they're about. At least know what you're talking about before you put it on the table.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 1:31 a.m.

Here's how the discussion regarding mortgaging the future to pay for today's spending starts. It will be called an "investment," but the only "investing" done will be to put proceeds into the market to cover pension obligations.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Ok, I'll bite too... Only in the era of the greedy, tea party, anti- public school, anti-teachers, anti-women, anti-worker, tax the retirees, take money from the unemployed (who paid for their unemployment benefits), anti-charitable tax deductions, guns in schools/daycare do we have this depraved element in Michigan controlled by the elected repub bullies who convoluted our electoral & democratic system to keep themselves in power for a long time to force government down our throat & into our schools/bedrooms/cities so that the unelected mid-Michigan groups, ALEC in Midland & the Koch brothers dirty money supporting the so-call job creators would think that closing & selling our schools is a great idea. Given the fact that monies that suppose to be going to public schools is being diverted by the very politicians who state they want less government and a better educated public. Many local classrooms are overcrowded & schools given less to do their job well. These repubs are controlled by their own business self-interest by giving themselves a business tax break, supporting the Devos family charter school movement to divert monies from the public schools intentionally to destroy them. Taking their monies to charters schools controlled by their CEO friends with the right to denied quality ed to everyone. Congrats MI, you elected them & gave them permission to destroy public education & aligned MI the likes of Mississippi & other so-call pro-worker states. Just remember the people who can leave will. Let's see if print this..


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

Spot on!


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

And why no report or consideration of closing Community, which would provide far greater savings? Can it not even be discussed or studied?


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

The value of the buildings has absolutely nothing to do with operating costs, which is where the district faces whatever budget deficit it actually faces. And facing facts, when they try this kind of penny-ante three-card monte misdirection, I tend to doubt the operating deficit itself. They must think they're dealing with kids. Probably force of habit.

Nicholas Urfe

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

Just think of what they could spend that on if they could do a cash-out re-fi and have taxpayers pay the mortgage!


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 1:33 a.m.

You're being downvoted, but that's exactly what's going to occur. Exhibit A: The Social Security "trust fund," which is full of nothing but IOU's. The fund was spent years ago. PS The IOUs are not traditional US Treasuries - they are simply bookkeeping entries. They are non-fungible special-issue "securities".


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Typical misdirection from the School Board. The building replacement costs from insurance are irrelevant unless the Board is planning to commit arson. What is relevant are the operating costs of multiple buildings in use for ideological reasons, not needed simply for capacity reasons. Also, the market value of the dispensable buildings, including the Dixboro school (the nominal rental income for Dixboro is a red herring).


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

40 acres of home building land in Dixboro is worth between 4 and 10 million dollars. The building on the land is irrelevant. There is other land that the district owns - mostly small parcels that have no buildings on them, so no replacement cost insurance.

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

Building replacement costs could be used as one measure of property value. It also gives us an idea what the relative value of buildings might be. Of course it will be difficult to get replacement cost from a buyer when the building is 80 years old. Insurance would replace it with a new building, while the buyer would get an 80 year old building. I'm not sure what you would classify as using a building for ideological reasons, but two high school programs - one kept purposely on prime downtown land, and one kept purposely away from people - come to mind.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

OK, I'll bite. Why not sell Community and the two alternative schools? ALL high school kids in AA would then go to the three comprehensive high schools. Run alternatives out of those buildings and save a whole lot of money! OK, now all the tree huggers can come in and tell us how Community is so integral to the experience of our little darlings. Oh, and then the race card will be played to save Clemente. Lets go ahead and get it started!

say it plain

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 3:56 a.m.

I agree with @CLX on that position about Clemente...*that* school, if it can continue its successes with kids who are not being served by the comprehensive programs in town, should stay in place and not be combined with other schools, because clearly one of the issues for these kids is that they need a different atmosphere. This, as opposed to the kids at Community, who pick and choose among the 'best' stuff available at all the high schools in town and have counselors who help them manage this plus all the 'small-school' attention and so on...sweet for the lucky, too much for the rest of us to support given the budgets we're facing.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

I can wholeheartedly agree on Community but not Clemente. Community seems like a good spot for lots of kids, but it's a luxury in our current fiscal crisis. It does not serve enough kids to be spared. It's also prime real estate and the kids who go there have realistic other options. I've never understood why or how Community is never discussed - seems like a sacred cow. Clemente serves even fewer kids, but it serves kids who don't have a lot of other options. It has a solid success rate for the type of program that it is, and I think there is a benefit to have it in its own location. Those kids have enough to deal with; can you imagine putting them in their own little section of Pioneer or Huron and dealing with that outcast status at those schools??

Basic Bob

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Here's another reason to close CHS - so we don't create another Andrew W.K.

say it plain

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

I'll bite too! Community isn't even "alternative" anymore, just 'extra attention' for kids who would do fine at any of the other schools in town. Indeed, Community eats AAPS resources (like the couple hundred thousand per year we had been spending, every year, for buses to transport their students to the athletics and music and AP activities they'd do at the comprehensive schools!) and hasn't given anything back that wouldn't come to the AAPS via the improvements they'd *have* to make so as to please the type of parents that like the alternative. Take the stuff that's good about CHS, add it to the comprehensive schools, and let go of the illusion that at the level of highschool and what that means in today's educational environment it is really an 'alternative'.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

That certainly makes the most sense to me. The alternative programs can be continued in the 3 comprehensive high schools.