Town Considers Paying $1 Million To Offset Municipal Employee Housing Costs

The Devil's In The Details...

The town is considering allocating $1 million to help offset municipal employee housing costs, including rent and mortgage assistance. 

In light of severe staffing issues in the Nantucket Police Department and the Department of Public Works, among other areas of town government, the concept was floated this week to allocate as much as $1 million to help staff members afford their rental unit or mortgage. 

“We’re in a real concerning situation with town employees and a lot of information that we’re getting that is pointing to a real struggle,” town manager Libby Gibson said. “Obviously the town is not the only employer but we’re the largest employer on the island and we have a lot of demands and expectations from the public that need to be met. And we’re having a big struggle to meet those.”

The details are still being worked out, Gibson said, but the initial plan would be to transfer the $1 million to the Community Foundation for Nantucket, which would then allocate funding to town employees in need of housing assistance based on certain criteria. 

The funding would come from so-called “free cash” in this year’s general fund budget. Free cash refers to the town’s undesignated fund balance that is certified by the state and is typically available for one-time uses. The funding would have to be approved by voters at Town Meeting in May.

“We came across a program that a county in Georgia has established which offers stipends to public safety employees only in that particular situation: they were finding their public safety employees were leaving the county and they didn’t want them to live outside the county,” Gibson said. “To attract them back in, they came up with the idea of housing stipends. We’re looking at that as a model, but not going entirely in that direction.”

The results of a municipal employee housing survey are expected back next week, Gibson added, which will help inform the criteria for the pilot program. 

Gibson and town finance director Brian Turbitt presented the concept to the Finance Committee on Tuesday, where several committee members expressed reservations without more specific details to consider. 

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