Is it time to “spring clean” your district? As the school year draws to a close, now may be the perfect time to spruce up, clean up, and get your district in order for the next school year. However, as you clean out your classrooms and straighten up your storage rooms, keep in mind that there are laws that specifically regulate how districts may dispose of their school property. So, as you organize your things into the “keep” vs. “trash” piles, keep in mind the following:
1) Pay attention to how much your “trash” is worth.
If the value of the item exceeds $10,000, the board is required to sell the property at a public auction. A board may hire an appraiser to help them determine how much the property is worth, or the board may make this determination on its own. Absent an abuse of discretion, a court shouldn’t overturn the board’s decision.
Remember that the question is whether the aggregate value of the property exceeds $10,000. So, if your spring cleaning turns up old football uniforms, keep in mind that it's the aggregate value of those football uniforms that matters, and not the individual value associated with each jersey or pair of pants. (1986 OAG 062).
2) Conduct your public auctions in accordance with the law.
If the value of the property exceeds $10,000, the board is required to provide the public with notice of the public auction at least 30 days in advance. The board may meet this requirement by either posting a notice in a newspaper of general circulation or by posting notices in five of the most public places in the school district. The district only has to do this once; continuous posting is not required.
The district does not have to hire a professional auctioneer to conduct the auction, so long as the individuals involved in the auction are not compensated for their services.
3) If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
If your items have been offered for sale at a public auction at least once and were not sold, or if the value of the property does not exceed $10,000, the board may try to sell the property at a private sale. There are relatively few rules that govern how a board may sell its property at a private sale. A board could, for example, use eBay or Craigslist to post the items, or offer the items up for sale at a district “garage sale.” No form of public notice is required, but we recommend soliciting bids from more than one source, if possible, to ensure that the board is getting the best price and to avoid claims of favoritism.
4) Consider selling the property to another public entity.
Regardless of the value of the property, a school board may sell the property to a municipal corporation, county, township, school district or another public entity enumerated in RC 3313.41. A public auction is not required and these sales may be made “upon such terms as are agreed upon” by the parties. And that’s truly as open-ended as it sounds. In some cases, property has been sold between public entities for as little as $1.
5) It’s difficult (but not impossible) to donate public property.
In general, boards have no authority to donate or give school property away. However, there is an exception that allows boards to donate unneeded property to certain civic and charitable organizations when the value of the property does not exceed $2,500.
In order to donate the property, the board must pass a resolution that outlines its desire to donate the property to a nonprofit organization. The resolution must include guidelines and procedures that the board considers necessary. The board must then advertise the donation in a newspaper of general circulation at least twice. The second notice must be published not less than 10 nor more than 20 days after the notice that immediately preceded it. The board must also post the notice continuously in the board of education offices and on the district’s website.
In order to be eligible for the donation, an organization must be a nonprofit tax-exempt organization that is located in Ohio.
For more information on disposing of district property that is no longer needed for school purposes, check out the legal division’s fact sheet on district property disposal, available online at: http://www.ohioschoolboards.org/sites/default/files/OSBAPropertyDisposalFactSheet.pdf.