Bidding for projects saves funds

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 24 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:34 am in

By Phil Hemingway

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Legislators can help every taxpayer and provide more money for local schools without having to allocate any more money.

Presently, school districts in Iowa are not bound by any code or state law which requires them to competitively bid service contracts. Individual districts may have school board policies that require competitive bidding but there is not a state statute requiring it. This leaves taxpayers and students vulnerable to the whims of school boards and administrators.

The Iowa City Community School District is one of those examples where no board policy requires competitive bidding for service contracts. Routinely, millions of dollars of public funds are allocated to service providers without a formal bidding process. Service contracts should be required to meet the same bidding protocol the state provides for public improvement or construction contracts.

Public improvement contracts (construction) are obligated to meet Iowa Code Section 26.3(1) requiring any construction project estimated greater than $125,000 be advertised for sealed bids by publishing a notice to bidders. The notice to bidders shall be published at least once, not less than four and not more than 45 days before the date for filing bids, in a newspaper published at least once weekly and having a general circulation in the geographic area served by the governmental entity.

I think the monetary threshold for service contracts should be lowered to $25,000 and be subject to bidding. Competition for these service contracts will protect taxpayers from Halliburton-type bidding, where only one company gets the work. Competition will only save taxpayers money and will provide a more transparent and open process.

We look to our elected officials such as state Sens. Joe Bolkcom, Bob Dvorsky and Sandra Greiner and state Reps. David Jacoby, Bobby Kaufmann, Vicki Lensing, Mary Mascher and Sally Stutsman to provide this needed reform. This will require them to say “no” to a strong lobby from some private-sector providers who have a virtual monopoly in some areas. By doing so, they will be providing every child in Iowa greater assurance that their tax dollars are better spent meeting their needs. We are looking to stretch every dollar as far as possible.

There must be a mechanism that will force those who will not seek competition to do so. Taxpayers and our students deserve it. Please assist in making this happen.

Phil Hemingway, of Iowa City, owns an automobile/truck repair business. He was a school board candidate in September’s election. Comments: phil@philsrepairllc.com

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