'Huge shock' from prevailing-wage cost for Penn-Trafford
Penn-Trafford School Board members are making a plea for state legislators to reform the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act.
Armed with an estimate that the five-decade-old law inflates school construction projects statewide by about 10 percent, school board members voted 7-0 Monday night to notify state officials they support increasing the minimum value of projects that the state law covers. They didn't specify a substitute limit for the $25,000 threshold in place.
It's almost certainly too late for action by state government to affect the upcoming Penn-Trafford High School construction plan, which officials capped at $32 million, but a change could decrease the labor costs on some future projects. As district officials prepare to solicit construction bids in May, they estimate the prevailing-wage law will cost Penn-Trafford an extra $3 million for wages on the project.
School board member Nick Petrucci called the cost of prevailing wages to the district “a huge shock.”
“That's just an awful lot of money,” he said.
The prevailing-wage law, which dates back to 1961, requires governments and school districts to pay wages based on those negotiated by unions in the same county for practically all publicly funded construction projects exceeding $25,000. In the first change to the law in a half-century, legislators last year quadrupled the threshold for road-construction projects to $100,000.
Though he told the school board he agrees that the existing threshold leads to artificially high wages, state Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, said it might be difficult to pass a reform to the law in Harrisburg.
“It's not an easy lift, to be totally honest,” said Dunbar.
School officials say the $3 million in additional wages could have helped address other construction needs if it weren't slated for labor. In the district's proposed bid package, officials are seeking prices for possible add-ons, including an auxiliary gym, fitness center and maintenance facility.
The estimated price for that package of add-ons: $3.5 million.
“Every dollar saved on prevailing wage is a dollar that can go towards our classrooms,” school board President Toni Ising said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.