BAC says new teachers face local housing crunch

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MEEKER — Finding qualified candidates to fill 4-1/2 teacher vacancies as well as the middle school principal’s position for the 2008-2009 school year is only a portion of the challenge facing Meeker School District.
That was the sentiment among Meeker High School Accountability (BAC) members at their April meeting. The consensus was that “affordable housing” may well be the biggest limiting factor in new teacher recruitment.
The BAC addressed the discrepancy between new teacher salaries and housing availability and costs. Unanimously, BAC members agreed that the equation is difficult to solve. New teachers entering the district make an annual salary of approximately $30,000 plus benefits which translates to a pre-tax monthly salary of about $2,500. Average rents for a 1-2 bedroom apartments in Meeker have risen to anywhere from $800 to $1,200 per month, and house rentals are worse yet.
The outlook is dismal when looking at the purchase of a moderately aged and improved three-bedroom home with a conservative price estimate of $275,000. Lenders are no longer offer 100 percent financing, which means a new teacher must come up with 20 percent of the purchase price ($40,000-$50,000) for a down payment on such a home. The estimated monthly mortgage payment at 6.75 percent on a 30-year note is about $1,600 including taxes and insurance. Rent rates for a similar home are about $1,500 per month.
BAC members agree that energy development in the Piceance Creek Basin has been a factor in driving rents and real estate prices up, but can’t take the entire blame for the current housing crisis. Housing is a necessary component for energy development workers and an issue that seems price-insensitive because of its necessary nature – the workers must be housed. Yet, it’s hard for people with ordinary service jobs (teachers, policemen, nurses, etc.) to compete for similar rents/mortgages. The nation’s economy, soaring fuel, food, insurance, health care and ordinary living expenses only compound the problem facing young teachers in relocating to a place like Meeker and yet they are necessary to sustain a vital community and school district.
The answer and resolution to this complex problem are unclear and yet this topic that is drawing similar attention in other Western Colorado communities feeling the impact of energy development.
Meeker High School BAC will continue to explore ideas to resolve the housing crunch and landowners willing to consider reduced rents for incoming teachers are encouraged to contact the school administration office at (970) 878-9040.
The BAC is also requesting donations of sofas and reclining chairs in good condition for the alternative high school.
The next accountability meeting is May 19 at 6 p.m. in the high school library.