How much should Fairfax County pay the county school administration for using a closed school?

The question may be answered with the sale of the old Annandale Elementary School, which closed in 1975 and now houses four county-sponsored programs including a day care center and a senior citizens center.

The school board formally declared the school building surplus Sept. 14 and agreed to sell it to the county, which has shown interest in acquiring the title.

But the county apparently does not want to buy the 53-year-old property for the price the school administration is asking.

The county supervisors, who have final say in the matter, have yet to decide how much they will pay. But County Executive Leonard Whorton said he "gathers" that the county will follow past policy governing its purchase of undeveloped school sites.

That policy, developed jointly between the schools and the county in 1977, calls for county purchase of school sites at the original purchase price. The policy does not cover county purchase of school buildings, said school planner Nathaniel Orieans. If the school site policy covered the sale of Annandale school, the county would pay the original purchase price of $394,405.

The school board, however, wants the county to buy the school for its current fair market value, which in 1975 was put at about $1 million. The school administration has sold the county three schools in the past at fair market value in separate negotiating sessions; no particular policy governed the sales. The last of those schools, Drew Smith, was sold to the county in the early 70s.

Whorton said he has not discussed the value of the Annandale school with School Supt. S. John Davis, only the fact that it would be declared surplus. When told the schools want to sell it for its current maket value, Whorton could hardly stop laughing.

The question of what price tag goes on old Annandale Elementary School goes beyond that building.

The Fairfax school administration may have to close several schools in the next few years due to falling enrollments, and the price for which Annandale is sold is likely to determine how much the school system will earn from selling other school buildings to the county in the future.

"I think the whole question is absolutely crazy," said Annandale district supervisor Audrey Moore. "Why should taxpayers have to pay twice for a school? They already paid once for building it."

But Davis take a different view:

"When bonds were approved for that school it was for educational purposes," Davis said. "When it is used for other kinds of activities, then the schools should be reimbursed. It is not a question of taxpayers paying twice."

School Board member Robert Smith, in whose district Annandale Elementary is located, said he "would like to see excess school property routinely turned over for fair market value so we could use the money for other schools.

"But the school board is not going to go to war over this issue because we stand to lose more than we gain," Smith said. "The Board of Supervisors eventually holds the card on this issue."

Davis said the proposal he is making to the county, that Annandale be sold for fair market value, is the same position the schools took before "acquiescing" to the county board in 1977 on the policy of selling school sites.

In his proposal, Davis said the county would not have to pay $22,500 that remains on a loan the county took to make improvements on the Annandale building. County payments for the school would be made on an annual basis over 20 years, Davis said.