UPDATE Friday, May 1, 10 a.m.
The College of Western Idaho is not required by law to get land appraised before purchasing it, the Idaho Press-Tribune reports.
Last week, CWI announced the purchase of 10 acres in Boise's West End neighborhood for $8.8 million. But the assessed value for that land was $3.6 million, and it came out that members of the CWI Board of Trustees had not looked at the assessed value of the land before making a purchase.
But the Idaho State Board of Education told the Press-Tribune that CWI isn't bound by section 33-601 of Idaho Code, which requires school districts' boards of trustees to get land appraised prior to purchasing or selling land; rather, CWI falls under section 33-2107, which gives boards of trustees at Idaho community colleges headroom to adopt their own rules for acquiring real property.
Nevertheless, a College of Southern Idaho representative told the Press-Tribune that the school has never purchased land without obtaining an appraisal, with the exception of a parcel obtained in 1998 as part of a land swap.
Meanwhile, CWI Board Chairwoman Mary Niland has told The Idaho Statesman that it was a mistake not to obtain an appraisal of the land prior to making the purchase.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would have looked at the tax assessment and would have asked for the appraisal," she said. "All I can tell you is we didn't think about it. It was a mistake, and we are accountable for that."
UPDATE 4:32 p.m. A member of the College of Western Idaho's Board of Trustees confirmed that she and her fellow board members voted unanimously to approve an $8.8 million purchase of 10 acres in Boise's West End neighborhood without looking at the parcel's assessed value, which turned out to be $3.6 million—a difference of $5.2 million.
"We felt that the price was reasonable," said CWI Board Member Emily Walton, who was elected to the position in November 2014.
Walton said that she and the college's four other trustees were advised by CWI Vice President of Finance and Administration Cheryl Wright that they were not legally obligated to have the parcel's value assessed prior to purchasing it.
However, an April 28 post on the Boise Guardian raised the question of whether CWI is bound by Title 33.601 of Idaho Code, which lays out the rules for how school district boards of trustees must handle real property:
"Prior to, but not more than one (1) year prior to, any purchase or disposal of real property, the board shall have such property appraised by an appraiser certified in the state of Idaho, which appraisal shall be entered in the records of the board of trustees and shall be used to establish the value of the real property."
"We may be missing something, but it would appear while the CWI board may have negotiated for the land near the Water Park, they don’t have a certified appraisal and claim they don’t need one," wrote David Frazier of The Guardian.
A phone call to the office of the Idaho Attorney General seeking clarification on whether CWI falls under the statute was not immediately answered.
Walton further defended CWI's purchase, telling Boise Weekly that the land met specific CWI objectives, including accessibility and acreage.
"There's not a lot of options in Boise for a 10-acre lot we can put a community college on," she said. "We looked at what's available and looked at some comparable properties around there."
A check of the Ada County Assessor's database shows a 0.805-acre undeveloped lot at 2525 W. Fairview Ave. was assessed in 2014 at $298,000—roughly in keeping with the assessed value of the property purchased by CWI.
Boise Weekly has also learned that CWI purchased the land from Rice Family Limited Liability Limited Partnership. Until March 2015, that entity had filed with the Idaho Secretary of State as Rice Family Limited Liability Partnership—a change that Rice Family LLLP registered agent and attorney Gregory Byron, of Thornton Byron, said provides members of the partnership with added liability protection.
He said the shift had "nothing to do with the sale" of land to CWI, and added that negotiations with the college had taken place "over several months." Multiple parties had expressed interested in the property prior to CWI's purchase, he said.
ORIGINAL POST 10:15 a.m.
Now, the conversation about that campus is shifting. In a stunning report from the Idaho Press-Tribune, it has come out that CWI paid about $8.8 million for the land located at 3150 W. Main Street—a parcel that has an assessed value of just $3.6 million.
CWI told the Press-Tribune that it will remain tight-lipped about other properties it had considered purchasing and negotiations concerning the parcel it purchased. The reason: Those reviews and negotiations were conducted during executive session of its board of trustees. A CWI spokesman said she could not comment on why the purchase price was more than twice the land's assessed value, but told the Press-Tribune that trustees were advised by lawyers that they were not required to obtain a land assessment before buying.
Such a land appraisal would have cost CWI between $2,000 and $3,000, though there has been no confirmation yet whether an appraisal took place.
While CWI officials have been mum about how the community college came to pay $5.2 million more for the land than its assessed value, assessors have been checking their own math about the value of the property. According to Ada County Chief Deputy Assessor Tim Tallman, Assessor Bob McQuade has revisited his own assessment and confirmed its value at $3.6 million.
"The appraisers even taking a second look at that feel like they're pretty comfortable with our assessment," Tallman told the Press-Tribune. "But there could be other factors that we don't know regarding the transaction."