GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 26, 2013

Charter's assets on the block

School's assets on the block today through online, email bids

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — Trustees of Gloucester’s defunct charter school will run their anticipated two-day electronic sale of assets today, hoping to gather enough funds to repay some or all of their lingering debt.

The trustees have posted listings detailing all of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School’s remaining assets on their website, with a “Buy it now” price for each item, and the amount the school paid for each item. If the charter trustees manage to sell all of the items at their “Buy it now” prices, the school will likely collect over $100,000.

But those who trusted that the sale of school assets would set the balance back at $0 will likely suffer disappointment, according to minutes from a March 11 charter board meeting, when trustees determined the sale money would not suffice. A March 5 invoice that estimated the school was in about $90,000 debt, on top of the money owed to creditors, did not include some lease payments due and bookkeeper expenses, according to meeting minutes.

“The amounts owed significantly exceeded income expected from the sale of assets,” the minutes noted.

And those amounts are totaled to exclude a $45,734 bill from the law firm the school has used, Foley Hoag LLP., which is not seeking payment for the outstanding balance remaining as of March 5, according to the minutes. All of this debt remains even after the state released federal funds earlier this month to repay $35,000 to creditors.

The online and email-only sale, posted over the weekend and first reported Monday morning at gloucestertimes.com, begins today at 8 a.m. and comes after trustees waited nearly a month for state approval of the sale method.

Buyers should send their purchase requests to sale@gcacharterschool.org. For a Times video tour of sale items, recorded during the school’s initial showcase day in February, go online to gloucestertimes.com.

“We’re doing it and we’re hoping for the best,” Trustees Chairman James Caviston said Monday.

Former Executive Director of the school and Current Trustee Tony Blackman did not return calls for comment, nor did the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s charter school office.

The sale could span two days, with the initial sale attempting to sell off a whole inventory of items through a single, sweeping purchase — or in absence of that type of offer, by selling large quantities of each asset.

On the second sale day, Thursday, trustees will attempt to sell off everything that remains after today’s fixed price sale. Trustees will also require each buyer to fill out a “non-conflict of interest” form, on which they must disclose their relationships, if any, with the trustees.

This morning, the trustees will give preference first to an offer to buy the “whole inventory” of assets at 60 percent of the school’s cost or better. Buyers will bid under that format only from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., according to the sale instructions posted on the charter school’s website.

Meanwhile, also beginning at 8 a.m., trustees will accept offers for buyers to purchase a quantity of a single type of item; for example, a buyer wishing to purchase 20 desktop computers would bid in the “lot purchase” and the trustees would give those bid preference over other bids in lieu of a whole inventory buyer. Lot purchases are fixed at 50 to 70 percent of the school’s cost, depending on the item.

If two buyers propose buying quantities of the same item, preference will go to the person wishing to buy the highest quantity of that item. If two buyers send comparable offers, the trustees will choose the offer that arrived first via email.

All bidding for the “whole school inventory” will end today at 9 a.m., while “lot” bidding will continue to 3 p.m., according to the website. Trustees will email buyers by 9 p.m. tonight to let them know if their bids were accepted. Then, purchasers must pay by electronic fund transfer or by cashier’s check within 24 hours of the sale.

All items left over from the Tuesday sale will be up for bid again Thursday, under a different sale format. Trustees will accept offers on the passed-over assets between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday by email and in person.

Trustees will calculate the best offer by multiplying the bidder’s desired quantity of an item by the price offered. Trustees will mark items ahead of time with undisclosed reserved minimum prices.

Again, trustees will notify buyers on the day of the sale if their bids were accepted. Trustees noted that all items will be sold as they are, with no warranties or recourse.

All buyers will be required to pick up their items within 72 hours of the sale, excluding “special circumstances,” according to the trustees’ rules.

The trustees will vote on where to donate the unsold items, but said in the sale instructions that unsold items will be donated first to other public schools, then to nonprofit organizations.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.