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Legislative Update

Bill establishing competitive bidding thresholds for school districts to be heard in the Senate

by | Jan 5, 2024 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue

On Wednesday, January 10th at 9:30 a.m., the Senate Committee on Transportation and Local Government will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 688. This bill would require school boards to solicit bids and award a contract to the lowest bidder if the estimated cost of a contract exceeds $150,000 and the contract is for the construction, repair, remodeling, or improvement of a public school building or for the furnishing of supplies or materials. Strategically, the bill also increases the threshold that triggers competitive bidding requirements for other local governments which groups that represent counties, towns, cities and villages will support. The bill was circulated for co-sponsorship back in late-October, by Rep. Robert Brooks and Sen. Duey Stroebel (R’s-Saukville).

The Assembly version of this bill, AB 723, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Local Government in mid-December. WASB provided testimony against the bill at the hearing. Likewise, WASB opposes SB 688, and we urge school leaders to contact your state legislators and ask them to oppose this bill. We invite you to testify in opposition to this bill either by speaking at the public hearing, or by submitting written testimony to the committee clerk. Please contact WASB Government Relations Staff if you have questions about providing testimony or contacting your legislators.

SB 688 confers no authority on school boards and school districts that they don’t already have. In reality, it imposes restrictions on school boards by taking away flexibility that many boards and districts currently use to generate taxpayer value through the use of alternative project delivery methods. While Wisconsin school boards are currently not statutorily required to utilize competitive bidding, many school boards do voluntarily use a competitive bidding process for school construction projects as a matter of board policy. Many other school boards find that the flexibility they currently have to utilize alternative project delivery methods can also provide certain advantages to their districts while still providing value to their taxpayers. SB 688 would take away school districts’ ability to negotiate with local contractors by requiring schools to use competitive sealed bids for projects of more than $150,000 and by prohibiting districts from using a bidding method that gives preference based on the geographic location of the bidder, quality vs cost analysis, or any criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder.

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