Prevailing Wage Pummels Another School District

prevailing wage insanityWe’ve reported before about how Pennsylvania’s outdated prevailing wage law imposes needless extra construction costs on local governments and school districts across the commonwealth, hurting taxpayers. The law requires that a community’s “prevailing wage” be paid on public construction projects above $25,000—which is in practice the union-inflated wage. The $25,000 threshold figure has not been adjusted since its early 1960s level, when the average home cost half that amount.

One outrageous example of the impact of prevailing wage comes from South Western School District in York County: The cost for a roof repair project skyrocketed 50 percent when officials factored in prevailing wage, going from $84,504 to $126,825—for no added benefit or better construction quality.

Turns out prohibitive prevailing wage costs are preventing more than one school district from undertaking roof repairs. Central York School District needs to repair a 30,000 square-foot section of its middle school roof. Without prevailing wage, the project cost would be $115,000 for materials, and $75,000 for labor at the market wage, for a total project cost of $195,000.

Additional labor costs under prevailing wage, however, add an extra $85,000 to the bill, for a total project cost of $275,000. That’s a 45 percent increase for the exact same job. School district officials have decided to defer the project in the hopes that Pennsylvania’s legislature will finally pass a common-sense reform raising the minimum prevailing wage threshold from $25,000 to $185,000. In that case, officials hope to re-bid the project so the roof repair falls under the threshold, and save a good $100,000.

One school board member told the York Dispatch: “While I understand that we are required to pay these additional costs, it still really chaps me up.” Complying with the prevailing wage mandate forces officials to delay even basic repairs in a time of strained budgets. Lawmakers should pass prevailing wage reform now, and let schools put a decent roof over their students’ heads.