New London – The Board of Education has partnered with the City Council to explore ways to financially reward teachers and other city workers who buy a home in the city.
School board president Elaine Maynard-Adams said she first came up with the idea after hearing about Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s Home Ownership Made Easy program. The hospital’s program provides eligible employees with up to $10,000 in forgivable loans and other incentives to purchase a home in New London.
“I like the idea because I think it’s a great recruiting tool for us. By us, I mean the Board of Education. I’m sure it’s a good recruiting tool for the city and I’m sure the city has a hard time recruiting employees the same way the council does,” Mayard-Adams said. “Every day we lose top candidates to districts that pay more money than us.”
Maynard-Adams discussed the idea with the city council’s economic development committee last week. Talks are expected to continue at a joint meeting of the budget working group next week.
Raising teacher salaries to match other wealthier districts just isn’t feasible, but Maynard-Adams said the district needs bilingual, math and science teachers and paraprofessionals. His idea is that a pool of money be developed and funded jointly by the city and the school board.
“I believe there is great value in having our employees live, work and play in our city,” she said.
The idea could be extended beyond teachers to include firefighters, police officers and anyone else working in the city. Councilwoman Reona Dyess said the program could perhaps be used as a tool to attract more Black and Hispanic employees and help diversify the city’s workforce.
Judy Cox, a loan specialist working in the city’s Office of Development and Planning, said the city used to have a home down payment program funded with $100,000 from the city budget. It was about 10 years ago. Funding for the New Home New London scheme, however, was restricted to low-income residents who met certain income guidelines. New owners could receive up to $5,000.
Likewise, the city is using $150,000 of American Rescue Plan Act federal funds to fund a program that provides up to $15,000 to people who buy a home in the city. The scheme also has income guidelines and is only open to current residents of New London. An additional incentive from the program allows up to $20,000 for a down payment for an owner-occupied home, Cox said.
“It’s a valid discussion,” said Felix Reyes, director of the city’s Office of Development and Planning.
“Throughout the country, especially in urban areas, we are struggling to recruit and retain teachers.”
Reyes said that although the city does not have salaries comparable to places such as Darien and Westport, real estate and the cost of living are lower in New London and can serve as an incentive, especially for the new university graduates.
Although there is no money in the current budget for such a program, Maynard-Adams said she would like to see the city and the school board consider at least $50,000 each to get the initiative started.