I-Team: 2 Wake County School board headquarters cost taxpayers big bucks


The ABC11 I-Team shows who is responsible and what the plan is to stop wasting money.

In May 2010, the Wake County School Board decided to move its headquarters from north Raleigh to Cary where they already had a footprint.

Consolidating, the argument went, would save resources and money. The problem was the old building was bought and paid for, and the new one came with a hefty lease. They planned to offset that lease by selling the old building, but, two-and-a-half years, later that still hasn't happened.

"That was not a good time to be putting a large commercial building on the market with the recession the way it was," said Wake County Taxpayers Assoc. Chairman Ed Jones.

Jones never understood the decision to sell.

"As a business person, I think it's much better to own the property, especially if you're looking at it long term," he said.

The new lease is complicated, which makes it hard to figure out exactly how much taxpayer money has been spent on rent.  It took the I-Team weeks get the information and, by our math, taxpayers have paid well over $1 million since the move.

"It is tough to understand and explain why that money is being spent," said School Board member Kevin Hill.

Hill told the I-Team that he was never a fan of the proposed move.

"I was thinking, at least at the time, from an economic standpoint," said Hill. "We had a building and we needed to probably stay there and think through the process a little bit more."

However, the move passed both the school board and the Wake County Board of County Commissioners.  The I-Team asked Commissioner Paul Coble if the timing was right for the move.

"I don't know that we could have saved taxpayers any money," said Coble. "Unfortunately, the building was in such a state we either had to have renovations, which made no sense, or move to another facility."

Coble and Hill don't often agree, but here, they find two points of common ground. At the time, the move seemed to make sense, and it doesn't make sense any more.

"There's always a point at which you say it's time to move the property," said Coble. "What's it going to take, and if we have to lower the price to get someone to take it, that's what we're going to have to do."  

They may have to lower the price a lot.

In the past two years, they've only gotten five offers on the old headquarters. Most of those were well below the $7.5 million listing price.

Also, while the building sits there, it's still costing taxpayers money in maintenance, and it's doing nothing to offset the lease in Cary, which is now at more than $250,000 a month.

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