Editor’s Note: School Board acquires Underwriters Laboratories site for future educational programming funded in part by impact fees. Funding for this property purchase comes from funds not part of the Camas School District operating budget.
At its regular meeting on June 24, the Camas School Board approved the purchase of Underwriters Laboratories, located at 2600 NW Lake Rd, Camas, for use in educational programming. Centrally located in Camas, the nearly 58 acre parcel and 115,000 square foot building are tax assessed at $19.5 million; the District will purchase both for $12 million.
Funding for the purchase will come from a variety of sources:
- $3.3 million in impact fees: Impact fees come from private dollars (typically from construction companies and developers) as new homes and neighborhoods are constructed. School districts receive these fees because of the impacts new developments have on communities. These funds are currently sitting in a CSD bank account to be used only for capital projects and improvements. Annually, CSD receives $500,000 from impact fees.
- $3.7 million from the District’s capital projects fund: This is bond money set aside for property acquisition, which is currently in the CSD capital fund bank account. These monies remain in the capital fund, for projects such as the Garver Theatre remodel.
- $5.0 million in a non-voted limited general obligation bond: This is a bank loan. According to CSD Business Services Director Jasen McEathron, CSD would take out a loan from a Pacific Northwest bank who invests in these type of securities. It is usually paid back over 10 years. The loan is currently being secured and will likely be ready in 60 days.
Monday’s unanimous school board vote approves a resolution to move forward with this purchase sale agreement — and it gives Superintendent Jeff Snell the authority to sign it.
McEathron noted the District anticipates being able to pay for the non-voted limited general obligation bond without impacting the general fund by using state forest funds, future impact fees, or in a future voter-approved bond. These funding sources cannot be used to pay for daily operational costs including staffing and compensation.
“It is important to understand that while we’re currently reducing our operating budget due to the State’s shift in school funding, the revenue streams we’ll utilize for paying for property are legally separate. We can’t use bond dollars or impact fees to pay for staff,” commented McEathron.
“We’ve had a challenging year related to our budget shortfall and resulting reductions in staffing, and it may seem counterintuitive to purchase property at a time when our operating budget is in decline,” said Superintendent Jeff Snell. “However, long-range planning points to continued growth in our community and compels us to act when presented with extraordinary opportunities that will benefit students.”
The Underwriters Laboratories land borders the Skyridge Middle School campus, making the location amenable to future expansion. The district intends to lease the building initially and is exploring the possibility for shared use partnerships with industry and higher education. Work is underway to update the district long-term strategic plan and district leaders are excited about the opportunities the UL property presents for future generations.
“It could be another comprehensive high school, and could be something else entirely, ,” said Snell. “Whatever we decide to do from a programming standpoint, we’d have to get stakeholder and community input first. This could be several years away. We may lease it out for a period of time, and we are also looking at sports fields conversions on the 58 acres. This is an opportunity to address whatever needs the district has moving forward.”
“This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is extremely rare to find a flat parcel of land this size in the center of town that is surrounded by fully developed neighborhoods,” said CSD Board President Doug Quinn. “The existing building provides an opportunity to repurpose for school use if needed for less cost than constructing a new one. This is a win for our students and Camas taxpayers.”
This purchase marks the second instance where the District obtained an existing business property. In 2016, the District purchased a 39-acre parcel and 54,000 square foot building from Sharp Microelectronics for $12.5 million. The building was converted to Odyssey Middle School and the 2016 bond-funded Discovery High School was built on this site. The conversion allowed the district to gain an additional school beyond what was a part of the bond program.
Snell said the costs to retrofit a school have been considered and CSD has learned how to best do that given their experience with the Sharp building conversion.
“We know how to do it and what to expect,” said Snell.
UL has operated at the Camas site since 1994. Their headquarters in is Northbrook, IL.