SD Rostra

How Much Will Prop. S Cost Taxpayers in the End?

A little news item crossed my desk today from the Associated General Contractors regarding a financial report on the status of Proposition S.

As you’ll recall, that $2.1 billion bond measure became a major battle between labor and merit shop interests over proposed construction projects in the San Diego Unified School District.

According to the release, the school district plans to discuss the financial findings on the Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) further tomorrow during a news conference.

Stay tuned …


News Release
December 8, 2011
Contact: Brad Barnum

Internal Documents Show San Diego Unified School District’s Union-Only Construction Program Costing Taxpayers Millions of Dollars

In documents obtained from the San Diego Unified School District’s Facilities Department, the construction industry has found that the District’s union-only Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) for construction projects financed by the $2.1 Billion Proposition S bond measure has been a dismal failure. The document, prepared at the request of the firm hired by the District to “conduct a study of the impact and effect of the Projects Stabilization Agreement (PSA),” covers the bidding results of all construction projects bid utilizing Proposition S funding since its inception in 2009.

Learn more here from District documents here: PLA Costs Taxpayers

The PSA was negotiated between the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council and the District in 2009. The first project imposing the terms of the PSA was bid in February 2010. Ten Proposition S projects were bid in 2009 before the PSA was implemented, and six other projects were bid in 2010 and 2011 that were not covered by the terms of the PSA. 17 projects were bid under the terms of the PSA in 2010 and 2011.

One of the documents, “Proposition S Construction Contracts Bidding Review,” shows that on average the District is paying a 21.9% premium for projects bid under the union-only terms of the PSA. This 21.9% premium amounts to approximately $16 million in additional construction costs that the District has incurred in the two years in which they have imposed the union-only condition on the projects. The document shows that while PSA project bids were 9.7% under the District’s budget, the projects bid without the imposition of the union-only PSA were 31.6% under budget…a 21.9% difference. If this trend continues, the imposition of the union-only PSA could cost taxpayers over $200 million in unnecessary construction costs.

Jim Ryan, Executive Vice President of the Associated General Contractors of America, San Diego Chapter, Inc., stated that “the reason for the 21.9% premium is obvious. On the union-only Prop S PSA projects, the District has only been able to interest an average of 5 responsive general contractor bidders, compared to 10 responsive general contractor bidders on Proposition S projects in which the PSA was not a condition of the contract. General contractors also tell us that the union-only PSA projects receive only about 50% of the subcontractor bids that the non PSA projects receive. When there are more bidders, the District receives better construction bids. It’s that simple.”

Scott Crosby, CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors, San Diego Chapter, noted that “the District has also spent several hundred thousand dollars to administer the PSA. This includes additional staff to administer the numerous grievances and jurisdictional disputes on the union-only PSA projects, pay consultants to conduct seminars to explain the complex provision of the PSA to the industry, and market the bid opportunities to contractors in areas throughout the Southwest. These expenses were incurred because the local contractors have shown little interest in bidding the union-only PSA projects.”

Another failure of the union-only PSA relates to local workers. The Building Trades promised that 70% of the craft workers would be residents of the San Diego Unified School District. As of December 1, 2011, only 40% of the craft workers working on the projects reside in the District.

The District will hold a “closed to the public” news conference Friday, December 9 to detail the results of a study by Rea & Parker Research, which was commissioned by the District’s Board of Trustees at the cost of $71,825.

The news conference will be held at Hoover High School’s Woodshop Building, which was the first Proposition S project bid under the union-only terms of the PSA. The project had to be bid twice. Only five bidders bid the first time, and the low bidder from Stanton, California was 35% over the District’s budget. All bids were rejected, and the District rebid the same project. This time there were only four bidders, and the low bid was about 26% over budget. A comparable project was bid about the same time by another school district that does not impose a union-only PSA on its projects. 17 bids were received, and the low bid was about 25% under budget.

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