Wages haven't kept up with other costs

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2005

I have been reading with great interest your articles regarding the problems with high cost of housing in Juneau. Yes, housing prices have gone up but so has the cost of everything else.

When I bought my house six years ago, I paid $0.90 per gallon for the No. 2 stove oil in the tank; the latest quote $2.17 per gallon, a 141 percent increase. Gasoline six years ago was $1.29.9; today, $2.47.9, an increase of 91 percent.

A local eye doctor three years ago charged me $75 for an examination, and last year charged $105 for the same, an increase of 40 percent in two years; extrapolate and compound this over six years and it would be a 175 percent increase.

I was quoted a price of $21.99 for a carbon monoxide detector at a hardware store, but two weeks later the price had increased to $27.99, an increase of 27 percent. Compound this over six years and it comes to a 325 percent increase.

If housing prices had tracked the examples above, a $100,000 home in 1999 would cost $241,000 using the fuel oil inflation factor, $191,000 using the gasoline inflation factor, $275,000 using the eye doctor inflation factor, and $425,000 using the hardware store example.

But the real problem, as you danced around in your articles, is that wages haven't kept up. In the same six years state employees have received a mere 6.67 percent cost of living increase (compounded). So if housing prices had tracked the state's COLA, that home would be worth only $106,670 today!

And we wonder why the young people don't come back to or stay in Juneau.

Let's see, spend $40,000 to $50,000 to get an education to come back to Juneau and work for the state or the city and have to wonder how long it will be until the lack of COLAs versus inflation for goods and services is going to drive me into bankruptcy.

Or stay down in the Lower 48, make 15 percent to 20 percent more money, where the cost of living is 15 percent to 20 percent less, and if my employer decides it is time to screw me, I will have 100 other potential employers within driving distance to choose from.

Mike Lavering


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