PW-S School District nets $725,000 from sale of land

Local businessmen buy Port property long held by district as a school site
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School District on Monday sold 54.4 acres of farmland it has owned for more than 49 years to two local businessmen, netting $725,000 to spend on capital improvement projects.

The west side Port Washington property  was purchased by Hillcrest Investments, which is owned by Randy Buser and Jeff Mayer, for $550,000 plus a $175,000 donation to the district, Supt. Michael Weber said. 

Buser owns Grand Avenue Saloon. Mayer owns J&H Heating.

“We asked for $725,000 and the buyer agreed to $550,000 for the land and the $175,000 donation,” Weber said.

The land, which is north of Grand Avenue and east of Highway LL and flanked on three sides by subdivisions — Spinnaker West to the south, The Woods of White Pine to the west and Lake Ridge to the east — is a considered a prime site for residential development as is reflected in the City of Port Washington’s master plan.

“Residential is what the city’s plan calls for and we’re certainly not going to deviate from that,” Mayer said.

For now, however, the land will remain as is, he said.

“We bought it as an investment at this point,” Mayer said. “It will remain farmland for now.”

The School Board will now begin the process of deciding how to spend the proceeds from the sale, which must be used to fund capital improvement projects if the district is to avoid a costly cut in state aid. Using the money for another purpose would make the district wealthier under the revenue formula and result in a reduction of state aid.

That decision will come on the heels of the approval of a $49.4 million referendum in April 2015 that addressed the district’s most significant capital improvement needs with a $3.8 million addition to Dunwiddie Elementary School and a $45.6 million Port Washington High School project that is to be completed next year.    

The board has yet to formally discuss how to spend the money from the land sale, although some officials have suggested it be held in reserve until the high school project is finished in case additional funding or work is needed. Weber noted, however, that district still has an ample contingency fund for the project.

Officials have also suggested some of the money could be contributed to an effort being spearheaded by the recently formed PWSSD Foundation Inc. to raise $7.8 million for outdoor Port High athletic facility improvements, including the installation of artificial turf football and baseball fields as well as a new eight-lane running track, concession stand, restrooms, bleachers, press box and other amenities.

“We have been so focused on making sure everything was in order and closing this deal that we haven’t had time to talk about how to spend the money,” Weber said. “Now that the land has been sold, the Building and Grounds Committee will get to work on that.”

The sale of the land marks the end of a process that started in May 2016 when the board decided to put the property, which  the district purchased in January 1969 from Elmer and Myrtle Bley for $149,000, on the market.

For more than four decades, the land was considered a future school site, but as subdivisions closed in around it and the amount of space needed for modern schools increased, it became less attractive for that purpose.

The tipping point came in April 2015 when voters approved a referendum that eliminated the need for a new school in the foreseeable future by providing for additional elementary classroom space and a modern high school.

Selling the land became an attractive option, one that would net the district money for capital improvement projects and encourage the type of growth that results in increased enrollment.

“It will now go on the tax rolls and provide the opportunity for more growth in the city and certainly more students for the district,” Weber said. 

The board’s decision to handle the sale of the property itself with the help of its attorney rather than list it will a real estate broker paid off, Weber said. Although the district is still calculating its legal expenses, they will be significantly less than the commission that would have been paid to a broker, he said.

And, Weber said, the district was able to negotiate a good deal with local buyers.

“I can’t think of anybody better to have sold this property to,” he said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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