At the May 11 Monroe County School District meeting, board members decided to continue gathering information from for-profit developer Gorman & Co. about its proposed affordable housing project at Sugarloaf School, provided that the firm can arrange rents much lower than previously discussed.
Also on the docket on May 11: a presentation about the “good news” 2021-2022 budget and welcoming the new safety and security director.
MCSD lawyer Gaelan Jones reported back to the board members about his meetings with Gorman & Co. At issue: a $600,000 access road. Jones said Gorman & Co. is paying the $5.1 million it will cost to build the 20-unit affordable housing project, but if they cough up another $600,000 for an access road, the rents will have to go up.
So, Jones said, Gorman & Co wants to know: Are the board members interested in the school district paying $600,000 for the road to keep rents low?
The members came to a consensus: They will continue to explore subsidizing the road only if school employees can afford to live at the housing project. The members requested that Gorman & Co try to get to 80 percent area median income, a.k.a. AMI, which is used to calculate income eligibility for affordable housing.
At the previous board meeting, members were not pleased that Gorman & Co.’s proposed rents were 100 to 120 percent AMI, meaning, a one-bedroom unit would cost $1,700 to $2,100 per month, two-bedroom units would cost $2,000 to $2,500 and three-bedroom units would cost $2,400 to $2,900 per month.
Eighty percent AMI would lower the rents to $1,628 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,831 for a two-bedroom unit and $2,034 for a three-bedroom unit.
Board member Mindy Conn was firm about keeping the rents in the project affordable. “We all know how much affordable housing is needed, but my concern is that the people who want to live here can’t. I know a lunch employee who needs a 3/2, but she can’t afford the rent.”
Jones said he would take this request to Gorman & Co., then report back to the board in the July meeting.
On another topic, Beverly Anders, the district’s executive director of finance, said she had “good news” about the budget for the 2021-2022 school year. The 2020-2021 year’s $86 million budget will go up by $167,000 next year. The total funding per student went up by $39, and continued funding for teacher raises will be available. Board members were particularly pleased to hear that the millage rate may go down; the millage rate is what determines property taxes for Monroe County residents.
But Anders said the millage rate won’t be confirmed until the tax roll is certified in July. Currently, the Monroe County millage rate is 1.564. But that rate may be lowered to 1.48, based on the initial information from the state, Anders said.
In other news, the board members were introduced to their new director of safety and security, who is starting effective immediately: Alfredo Vazquez. According to MCSD, Vazquez is a retired 30-year veteran of the Key West Police Department who is “familiar with the Keys and the school district. He has worked with agencies Keys wide during his tenure with KWPD and was part of the team that looked at school hardening several years ago.”