The District is considering an MOU with Africatown, but something familiar is proving an obstacle: Africatown's use of a District building without paying any rent or utilities.
See the minutes of the Finance Committee meeting of November 13. I've copied and pasted it here. I did the highlighting.
Directors asked about how rent has been paid in the past and Mr. Ruiz confirmed the City of Seattle provided $8,000 to pay for the first 6 months of the lease, but the last 6 months have not been paid. He spoke about a letter that the District’s former Superintendent wrote to Africatown indicating the agency would only be charged 50% of the rent after finalizing the MOU with them and that this would be retroactive to January 2013. If this were to happen, the $8,000 that Africatown received from the City of Seattle would cover their rent at a 50% rate below fair market value until October 2015. It was noted that Africatown has not made any payments for utilities or rent.
Directors asked about the urgency of the memorandum of understanding and resolution being approved immediately and Mr. Ron English noted that Africatown never exercised an extension on the lease so there is currently no agreement in place. Directors noted their concern that the District has allowed an organization to remain in the building since May with no contract and no compensation. Directors spoke about the risk of this being determined a gift of public funds.
Directors asked about how Africatown has improved African American student success at Seattle Public Schools, and whether the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning has been active in the determination of student academic progress or lack of.
Directors asked how the rent would be paid going forward and Mr. Ruiz noted the Africatown program director has spoken about opening an escrow account with the funds to cover at least three months of rent at a 50% discount from fair rate market value but this has not been confirmed and we have not received proof of such account.
Directors asked if there is a department managing properties and Interim Superintendent Larry Nyland agreed to research and provide this information to the Committee. Directors asked about mechanisms in place to flag issues such as this one and Mr. Gotsch confirmed there is a department responsible for real estate transactions.
Mr. Gotsch thanked Mr. Ruiz for his hard work and Directors agreed to send questions, concerns and other feedback to Mr. Ruiz and Mr. Gotsch so that the item could return to the December 11th Committee meeting agenda. Mr. Gotsch noted he would ensure the item was near the top of the agenda.
The Committee did not recommend the item for consideration or approval by the full Board until more information could be provided.
The MOA with Africatown was, in fact, on the agenda for the Finance Committee meeting of December 9.