The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Foundation has purchased Chancellor Richard Wells’ Congress Avenue home “to ensure the institution has an inviting, strategically-located chancellor’s home” near the campus.
Wells and his wife, Christie, purchased the home for $285,000 in 2001 from the Alberta Kimball Trust. The Oshkosh Assessor’s Web site lists a fair market value of $331,300 now and an assessed value of $328,600. The mid-century, modern home has a current property tax payment of $8,030.
Foundation Board Vice President Tim Mulloy said the foundation paid the Wells’ $450,000, saying the property was appraised first and the purchase used no taxpayer dollars. He said the purchase price recognizes the home’s unique architecture and higher replacement value.
“We’re confident in the purchase price,” Mulloy said.
Mulloy also said Wells will no longer receive a housing allowance now that the university owns the property.
Mulloy said the foundation had discussed the purchase for some time before deciding market factors were right.
“We’ve been looking at this for awhile because these types of things are not unusual, especially with a university of this size,” Mulloy said. “And interest rates remained good, so we decided to pull the trigger on it.”
In a press release, the foundation indicates Wells, 65, expects to retire from UWO in the next three to five years.
“This action enables the Foundation to offer our next chancellor a distinctive and quality house proximate to campus – a home well suited to host events that help advance the institution,” UWO Foundation Board President Thomas Kell said. “It also ensures our next UW Oshkosh leader will call the city of Oshkosh home — a community in which the Foundation and the University are stakeholders, collaborating with both public and private partners and investing in the city’s future. It is not uncommon for University foundations to provide residences for their presidents and chancellors as a means to provide a long-lasting, friend-and-fundraising home base that will help grow their institutions.”
But Mulloy said that’s more of a broad window than a guarantee Wells intends to step down within five years.
“It’s something he’s kind of hung out there,” Mulloy said. “I think he’s at the point where he’s tossed it out there over the last year. It’s not like it’s imminent, but it’s in the future.”
The university hasn’t had a chancellor’s residence for almost 25 years since the Foundation took the last home, Oviatt House, for their offices in 1990.
And while the university has gained a chancellor’s house, the city may have lost some property tax revenue. Mulloy said that since the foundation, a nonprofit, now owns the house and it will be maintained by the UW-System, it seems likely the property will be taken off the tax rolls. The university could always adjust the annual Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) it makes to the city, though, it remains to be seen if that will happen.