News Column

Riverview nears agreement with school district for Shell Point property

August 25, 2014

By Sarah Bowman, The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)



Aug. 25--After months of negotiations and several rejected proposals, Riverview Charter School is nearing an agreement with the Beaufort County School District to make its current home a permanent one.

The district plans to help by lending the school $10 million.

The charter school occupies the former Shell Point Elementary School in the town of Port Royal. Although it wouldn't own the property, Riverview would lease the building long-term and renovate it to accommodate growing enrollment.

The discussion is now down to the details.

At a recent school board Finance Committee meeting, board members and district officials discussed with Riverview representatives the terms of the agreement, including the lease amount and repayment schedule for the district's loan to renovate and expand the school building.

Under the proposed agreement, Riverview would continue to pay its annual $270,000 rent for the next several decades -- the exact length of time remains undecided. In addition to rent, Riverview would make annual payments of about $320,000 over the next 30 years to pay back a loan of about $10 million from the district.

The cost of the renovations, which will almost double the building's size, is estimated at $8.3 million, according to Ed Foster, the charter school's board chairman.

The district will also incur about $1.3 million in interest for the money it must borrow to pay for the project, which it will fund for Riverview, district head of operations Phyllis White said. She said the district will pay back its loan in 10 years, but will allow Riverview a longer repayment schedule so the school can still have money for its classrooms.

Riverview first approached the district about purchasing the building early this year, but the school board decided not to sell so the property would be available as district needs arose, school board Chairman Bill Evans has said.

Superintendent Jeff Moss then presented a plan in which Riverview repaid the loan faster. However, Riverview director Alison Thomas said that was not feasible for the school.

At the committee meeting, Moss said the current proposal is a good one, especially since it will allow the district to raise the rent to cover upkeep.

"We could accept their offer under the condition we rewrite the language concerning maintenance," he said.

The school district is responsible for any maintenance on electrical, plumbing, and heating and air-conditioning systems -- currently about $70,000 a year, Moss said. The district covers those costs with Riverview's rent. However, those costs likely will rise over the years as the building ages, Moss said.

"The board was not willing to start paying bills we weren't previously paying," said committee co-chairwoman Mary Cordray. "... But we were interested in loaning the money so Riverview could expand the school."

Thomas and Foster said they could consider the rent-adjustment provision as part of the agreement.

The district and charter school's attorneys will begin drafting a contract to present to the school board for final approval.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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(c)2014 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)

Visit The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.) at www.islandpacket.com

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Source: Island Packet (Hilton Head, SC)


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