Eagle County Schools plans for increase in rental rates for employee housing units
Following the recent staff salary increase, the move will go into effect in July
Last month, Eagle County Schools reached an agreement with the local teacher’s union to increase compensation for teachers and all staff. And, earlier this month, the Board of Education approved an increase in the rental rates of employee housing units, linking the salary schedule and rental rates.
The compensation increase was passed in December as the district faces a number of staffing challenges. One of the main challenges with hiring and retaining staff in Eagle County is housing.
In combating this challenge, the district has been working to increase its inventory of employee housing units across the county. As part of its housing master plan, the district aims to build 120 units of workforce housing in the next decade.
And, already, the district owns various types of housing for its employees at a reduced rental rate. However, with the recent increase in compensation, the school board unanimously approved an increase in rental rates, going into effect in July.
The increase will also impact another type of employee housing inventory the district owns — mobile home lots at Maloit Park in Minturn. The current lot rental rates for this property are set at $300, which Farrell said is not cost-effective for the district.
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In October, the board approved a resolution — which included authorization of a lease-purchase agreement and approval of certificates of participation for funding — to move the development forward.
When presented at the Oct. 27 school board meeting, rent including utilities for these new units was proposed at $1,130 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,470 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,910 for a three-bedroom unit.
These rental rates were structured to maintain affordability for school staff and were based off the assumption of a $45,000 base salary — which is what the district got to with December’s compensation increase. Specifically, the assumption was that 40% of that base salary would go toward rent.
The board approval of rent increases this Wednesday aligns the rest of the district’s existing employee rental units with the proposed rental rates for these new Edwards units.
Currently, the district has home monthly rental rates set at $500 per bedroom. The district currently has no one-bedroom units in its inventory.
Rent is currently $1,000 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,500 for a three-bedroom unit. With the approved increases, these units will see a monthly increase around $400 to $500 depending on the number of bedrooms. New monthly rental rates will be set at $1,470 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,910 for a three-bedroom unit, starting July 1.
Regardless of where a staff member sits on the salary schedule, these rental rates are based on the base pay — currently $45,000 per year for certified staff — on the schedule.
“It is based on the affordability level for our employees — that’s why we wanted to tie it to our salary schedule,” said Sandy Farrell, the district’s chief operating officer on Wednesday.
At Wednesday’s school board meeting, it was noted that these increases not only realign rental rates with the recently approved salary schedule, but that these rental rates serve as a funding source that will enable the district to pay principal and interest on the certificates of participation used to build employee housing.
“Affordable housing is an extremely important issue to our staff, and we want you to be aware of these changes that we’re proposing as it relates to our ability to pay for the project in Edwards — this is critical to that, because we have these increases baked into that plan,” Superintendent Phillip Qualman said to the board Wednesday.
Farrell also said that these increases get their employee housing units closer to rental rates in the rest of the county, which has benefits for employees as well.
“We’ve been slowly trying to get it back up to get to where it’s affordable and available, but yet not so low that once people get into that housing, they base their budget on that, and then they’re not able to get back out and be able to afford other places,” Farrell said.
The increase will also impact another type of employee housing inventory the district owns — mobile home lots at Maloit Park in Minturn. The current lot rental rates for this property are set at $300, which Farrell said is not cost effective for the district.
“When we’ve done the analysis of what it actually costs to maintain those because we pay the water and sewer and trash out there, we do special mosquito spraying just for that park, we have to maintain the road and all of that going out there. And so, we’re actually losing money on this,” Farrell said.
Maloit Park is in the district’s housing master plan as a future development opportunity. Farrell at Wednesday’s meeting said that initially the district held off on increasing these rental rates, as there was uncertainty about when the development would start.
“But, since that is so far out, we’re asking that that be increased by $50 a month on an annual basis in order to get that to break even a little bit more,” she said.
With the incremental increases starting in July, the district will increase the rate by $50 per month per lease. It will then increase these lot rates by $50 per month annually until rent reaches $500 per month in four years, at which point Farrell said the district hopes to have a better idea of what the development will look like.
“They have six months to prepare for that increase. We recognize that can be impactful for some people that are on a fixed income, but our current employees that live out there have been getting the salary increases and moving along and have had a great opportunity,” she said. “So, not to discount what that is to them, but we need to get back up to closer to about $500 amount, which is still lower than any mobile home lot that you can find in the county.”
Announcing the rate increases before July sets clear expectations for current and future employees, and it gives employees in these units time to prepare, Farrell said.