School district board approves housing statement

Hoping to open up conversations to partnerships 

By Kendra Walker

During their May 20 meeting, the Gunnison Watershed School District board approved in a 4-1 vote an employee housing statement that will allow superintendent Leslie Nichols to engage in housing conversations with other entities in the Gunnison Valley to seek potential partnerships, opportunities and funding solutions for housing for teachers and staff. 

Under the statement, the board agrees that increases in costs of housing in the Gunnison Valley challenges the district’s ability to recruit and retain employees, and the current housing stock is inadequate to meet the needs of employers. “As a large employer in the valley with nearly 400 employees, the district has an interest in participating in finding housing solutions for its employees,” reads the statement, noting the need for up to 20 housing units in the next five years. 

The housing statement recognizes that the district owns three small parcels of land in Gunnison that are suitable for housing development and partnerships with non-district owned properties are also possible. 

Regarding funding, the district may choose to use up to $2.5 million from its Capital Reserve Fund. The housing statement also ensures that the district will not develop a program that impairs its abilities to pay employee salaries, and it will proceed with extreme caution in considering seeking voter approval for bond funding or the use of certification of participation (form of debt) as a funding mechanism.

Board member Mandy Roberts voted against approving the housing statement. “I don’t think money talk needs to happen right now,” she said. She said she preferred to use the $2.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund toward one-time bonuses for current employees. 

“To me this seems to be a reasonable amount to get us into the discussion,” said board member Mark VanderVeer. 

Under the approved housing statement, Nichols will proceed with research into possible partnerships and solutions for housing and bring possible development options to the board for consideration.

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