FOX 4 Investigation - Superintendent Perks

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A Fox 4 Investigation exposed some expensive perks taxpayers are giving to North Texas school superintendents.  

In our report in March, one perk stood out to viewers: a home, bought by the Grand Prairie Independent School District, that the superintendent lives in.

Since then, Fox 4 discovered that the district paid a lot more for the house than it first appeared.

The Dallas Central Appraisal District values the gated home, along with the 5 acres it sits on, at around $400,000. But the district bought it last years for nearly $700,000.

While it is district property, it is being used as a personal home with its current occupant, Superintendent Dr. Susan Hull.

Her $360,000 dollar annual salary already makes her the highest-paid superintendent in North Texas, earning more than the superintendents in Dallas or Fort Worth.

In addition, she receives $84,000 in bonuses and allowances each year.

Now she lives in a four-bedroom, 2-and-a-half bath, 2,700 square foot home, on five acres of land, with a pool and a barn.

It was bought by taxpayers last year, with board approval, for $694,000.

We questioned GPISD Board President Terry Brooks at a public school board meeting two weeks ago.

"You said it was the superintendent's house,” Brooks said. “It's not the superintendent's house. The property was purchased for the expansion of Garner Elementary."

We asked for the final purchase price of the house and land where the superintendent now lives because on the school board agenda there are two numbers: $300,000 for the house and part of the land, and $394,000 for the rest of the land.

It's not clear from the agenda if the district is spending $394,000, $300,000 or both.

Now, if you think we're splitting hairs, that's why we showed the 2016 agenda item to Board President Terry Brooks to see if it was clear to him.

“Evidently, it was $394,000,” Brooks said. “According to this paper.”

A Fox 4 reporter then showed Brooks the purchase statement, with the purchase price of $694,000.

“You've got to think of how many things we go through every day,” Brooks said.

The reporter asked if Brooks thought that it was misleading to have the agenda split the price up.

“Depends on what we were doing at this time,” Brooks said. “Without going back and investigating all this, I have no clue.”

Brooks did investigate, and got back to us with a written statement that says, in part:

"In real estate transactions of this type, it is routine to break out the value of the land separately from the value of the improvements. It's not only standard practice, it's the most transparent way of putting the information forward."

Except that the purchase agreement, which we obtained, describes only a single parcel of land with a house for a total purchase price of $694,000.

And the Dallas Central Appraisal district only lists one plot of land with a house, pool, and barn, valued at $413,520.

Grand Prairie ISD paid 70 percent more than that amount.

We also wanted to know when students will benefit from the deal.

“We're concentrating on the north side of town big time right now,” Brooks said. “We're replacing a lot of schools built in the 40s and 50s that were way outdated. Well, well past their prime. So first things first.”

We asked if the superintendent could live there indefinitely.

“She could live there, I don't think indefinitely,” He said. “I don't think she'll be the superintendent of Grand Prairie in 20 years.”

We asked if she could live in the house as long as she wants to live there.

“Not necessarily as long as she wants to,” he said. “As long as we don't need that property.”

We learned the school district also spent an additional $80,000 on upgrades and repairs to the home.

Things like granite counter tops, patio ceiling fans, and a driveway to the house.

Caulking on the pool deck alone cost the district $12,000 bucks.

Since the house is district property, we asked to see inside, to find out what taxpayers got for their extra $80,000.

The school district would not allow us to go inside.

 Even though:

“It's not the superintendent's house. The property was purchased for the expansion of Garner 

A district spokesperson emphasizes that Hull is paying $2,000-thousand dollars a month in rent.

But keep in mind, the district pays her $1,000 dollar a month housing allowance.

One more perk: because the school district owns the home, it is exempt from property taxes.

The tax bill would be 12-thousand dollars a year.