Unfunded Mandate Update: Competitive Bidding & Construction Notices

The Senate version of a bill (Senate Bill 236) that would require school districts to use the competitive bidding process on certain school construction projects has been scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday, Oct. 3rd and committee vote Thursday, Oct. 5th in the Senate Local Government Committee. The bill is authored by state Sen. Duey Stroebel  and state Rep. Robert Brooks (R’s-Saukville).

The WASB testified in opposition to the Assembly version (Assembly Bill 307) in July.  Our position was  determined based on support for local control and noted that the bill would limit or eliminate local board discretion and flexibility  to use various project delivery methods for school construction.

Among other things, the bill would prohibit schools from using Design-Build methods and it would also prohibit schools from negotiating with local contractors or establishing a bidding preference for local contractors on all school construction, repair or remodeling projects above $50,000 (the original bill called for projects above $75,000 but the bill authors introduced an amendment that appears to change that to $50,000). In its testimony, the WASB acknowledged that many school boards voluntarily use competitive bidding as a matter of board policy, but objected to a statutory mandate to do so.

Also on the unfunded mandate front, Assembly Bill 510 was introduced which would require a school board to make certain notifications to “interested parties” regarding planned construction projects.

The notice requirement applies to a construction project with an estimated cost of $10,000 or greater that will occur in a school building in which pupils, teachers, and administrators will be present. Unless it is an emergency situation, the school board must provide notice at least two months prior to the start date. Notice may be provided by mail, by publication in a newspaper likely to give notice to interested persons, or at a public hearing (there is no electronic notice option provided). Notice to parents and guardians of pupils and others who are assigned to the school building may be provided by e-mail or through a letter sent home.