I may have been unfair in implying that individuals and organizations supporting WC1 may have been self serving and questioning whether estimates of the cost of WC1 projects presented to the public were intentionally deceptive in light of new estimates less than one year after the measure was passed that show actual costs to be 40 to more than 50% higher than those original estimates. I have said that I was suspicious of the measure and the motives of its main supporters–building contractors and business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce from the onset of the campaign, in part because during my 30 years in Reno working in the field of education I had seen time and again these very organizations working to defeat measures to raise taxes to support the schools, measures related to the hiring of teachers (I had first hand knowledge of overcrowding in classrooms, teachers with impossible numbers of students if quality of instruction be a concern) and the ability of the district to attract highly qualified new teachers considering the rather meager salaries the district could offer because of the lack of funds to offer decent pay for the work performed).
I read the response to my questions as reported in the RNR article and may have been overly suspicious of the claims by district officials that the precipitous increase in the price for the construction work was a market issue, costs for construction of all kinds having skyrocketed in the time since WC1 had passed, the Chinese building boom being a significant factor as well as rising labor costs brought on by a shortage of construction workers following the end of our recession that forced workers to leave the area.
I did hear from a person who had reason to know about construction costs who affirmed to me that the incredible rise in construction costs was real, that the cost of building a building probably had doubled in a year even though there had, in the same amount of time, been no such jump in overall cost of living.
I trust that what I was hearing about construction costs was valid but I do have to wonder who it is that is profiting from the increased costs–the additional amounts of money being paid do have to go somewhere and, eventually to someone. Someone somewhere in the chain is making more for what is being sold than was being made before. I was told, for example, that the cost of cement has been rising steadily, this reflected in the new prices being quoted for the school projects. The reason stated for such an increase was the Chinese building boom.
But the Chinese building boom has been going on for considerably more than a year and, when I looked for figures for the cost of cement over the last year, what I could find, a chart showing what the State of Virginia payed for cement for its public works projects over the course of the year, the change from November of last year to September of this year did fluctuate between $98 per unit to $103 per unit during the year, back down to $98 by September of 2017. I had thought that cement was a product of local production but I was being told that its price was affected by international market forces so, I figured, the Virginia pricing I was seeing, percentage wise at least, should be something more than a localized phenomenon. If the cost of cement for Reno area projects has risen so much beyond what cement costs in Virginia, why would that be and where is the money going? Who is profiting? Laborers in the cement industry?
I am trying to understand how market forces are affecting the cost of building schools in Reno and I will continue to do so. I have asked the Washoe County School District for the information it received and used in making its decision to pay the price now being asked (by some one) for the construction work for which it is using WC1 funds to pay.
Am I being overly suspicious or is my curiosity spurred by questions of real merit?