Topeka — For years, some legislators have said the state should do more to sell unused state property.
And a recent audit shows the state doesn't do a good job of this, but also indicates that sometimes an empty parcel of state-owned land is more complicated than it appears.
For instance, the idea of selling unused land around the Kansas Soldiers' Home near Dodge City "could adversely impact the health and quality of life of those residing in this nursing home community," said Gregg Burden, executive director of the Kansas Commission on Veterans' Affairs. Burden argued the land is needed as a buffer against encroaching industrial development.
The state owns approximately $12.3 billion in land, including roads and buildings, and $265 million in personal tangible property, such as cars and office furniture.
The Kansas Department of Administration has review and oversight duties concerning surplus real property.
But a recent report by the Legislative Division of Post Audit stated the Department of Administration has failed to accomplish some key tasks.
"The Department of Administration has not proactively identified surplus real property as required by law and lacks the authority to independently designate what properties are surplus," the report stated.
The report also says the state's central asset inventory of real property is inaccurate and incomplete, the process to sell surplus property includes disincentives, and the State Surplus Property Program has operated at a net loss of approximately $50,000 for each of the past two years.
Auditors selected 13 properties for an in-depth review and decided that eight of those were surplus because they either were unused or not critical to the missions of the agencies that owned them.
Those eight properties could be sold for an estimated $1.5 million to $2.2 million, the audit said.
But there are obstacles in selling the properties. Some of the properties need title searches, some need appraisals, and some land is being leased for other purposes.
For example, the Atchison Juvenile Correctional Complex, which was vacated in March 2010, was only recently appraised. Since it has been empty, the complex's 23 buildings have been hit by vandals and copper thieves, probably making the site worth less.
The audit also looked at four tracts of land, totaling 449 acres, near the Kansas Soldier's Home. These are leased agricultural lands not essential to the function of the home, the audit said.
But officials with the Kansas Commission on Veterans' Affairs disagreed.
Burden, the executive director of the commission, said the property provides a buffer between the home and local land use dominated by livestock operations and a power plant.
As far as improving the process of identifying and selling surplus properties, the Department of Administration's Office of Research and Development said it would put many of the audit's recommendations into action, and report back to legislators by April 1.
Those recommendations include establishing clear criteria for identifying surplus property, selling the property and periodically reviewing state land to identify potential surplus real property.