Grand Prairie superintendent may be shopping for a house not owned by taxpayers

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Grand Prairie ISD

The Grand Prairie school district seems ready to shed one of its most infamous tenants: Superintendent Susan Hull may be getting her own place.

Since January 2016, Hull, who makes about $403,000 per year plus perks, has lived on a $700,000, five-acre district-owned property on South Carrier Parkway that, in addition to a three-bedroom residence, includes a horse barn and a swimming pool.

Hull has paid $2,000 a month in rent, with half of that covered by a housing stipend from the district, for most of her tenancy. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in that city is $1,000, according to one apartment rental website.

Last week, the school board agreed to remove from Hull’s contract a clause that required her to live inside the district. At the same time, the district ended her rental agreement in the South Carrier house.  

The district bought the property in 2016, and Hull signed off on the purchase. District officials said the residential property, part of a strip of mostly commercial buildings, was bought to accommodate a potential expansion of the nearby Garner Fine Arts Academy. The land itself, not the house on it, was the reason for the purchase, according to officials.

Since she moved in, Hull has charged the district for $160,000 in renovations, including new countertops and plumbing upgrades. Some board members contend she was not authorized to spend the money.  The former school board president lost that position because of actions he took to look into that spending.

When the district bought the property, it ceased receiving tax income from it — as did other taxing entities in Grand Prairie. To the north and south of the land are residential subdivisions with homes valued between $180,000 and $250,000, whose owners pay several thousand dollars a year in property taxes. The house next door to Hull’s received a tax bill for $11,636 for 2018. The Grand Prairie school district has the highest property tax rate — almost $1.60 per $100 valuation — in Dallas County, and among the highest in the Metroplex.

In addition to Hull’s home, the district owns 31 properties in Dallas County including ten residential lots, according to a review of property records. Some it has owned for decades, and are empty lots. The district owns two vacant lots on Devonshire Drive in the subdivision north of Hull’s home. It has held these two properties since at least 2000, records show.

Dallas ISD owns six residential properties, records show. Arlington ISD owns 10. Publicly owned property is considered exempt from taxes under state law that provides somewhat vague guidance as to its use.

Some districts offer housing to superintendents as part of a buffet of perquisites that also includes luxury car allowance, cell phones and gym memberships, along with salaries that average six-figures and severance agreements in the same range.

Highland Park ISD in Dallas has provided a district-owned house for its superintendents since 1986.

The school district in Palo Alto, Calif., allowed its superintendent to live in a district-owned house for $1,800 a month, a bargain in that region. In Park City, Utah, the district purchased a home for its superintendent to ensure she could live within district boundaries.

Grand Prairie district spokesman Sam Buchmeyer said there is no set date for Hull’s departure from the property, and that she may elect to remain. But the fact that the board moved to amend the residency portion of her contract indicates some change is in motion.

“We have no immediate plans for the property,” Buchmeyer said, adding that there are no plans to lease the house again if and when Hull leaves.

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

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