Paulin and Galef Call for Repeal of WICKS Law

Repeal would save school districts and taxpayers’ money

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef joined the Westchester Putnam School Board Association and local school board members to call for the repeal of the Wicks Law--a nearly 90-year-old law requiring public construction projects to issue not just one, but four or more contracts to separate contractors for plumbing, electrical, heating and general construction.

Repealing the Wicks law will provide school districts the option of using a single prime contractor for construction projects, and in turn save school districts and taxpayers’ money.

The governor has included this repeal in his Executive Budget. Paulin and Galef will be calling on the legislature to join them in eliminating Wicks. This would provide long-term capital and debt service savings to the school districts and the state, and by extension, the taxpayer.

“Repealing Wicks will save New Yorkers money,” said Assemblywoman Paulin. “In these dire financial times we have to look for savings everywhere we can. Almost every other state allows single prime contractors, as does the federal government, and it’s time Westchester gains this benefit.”

It has been estimated that repealing Wicks will generate $200 million in annual capital savings to school districts. The resulting debt service savings would provide savings to school districts as well as the state, which provides reimbursement through building aid.

“One significant way we can help property owners with school taxes is to allow schools to be exempted from the Wicks law. It is only fair that we have the same rules applying to our suburban schools as apply to New York City, Niagara Falls and Buffalo schools,” said Assemblywoman Galef. “This is the year we must adopt equity in school construction requirements and eliminate Wicks.”

Studies show that Wicks Law adds 15-30 percent to the cost of construction projects. Here’s how it works: Separate bids and specifications must be prepared for each prime contractor. Sometimes the prime contractor includes a markup in the contract price, causing contractual disputes. This can drive up legal costs and construction work is often delayed, creating tremendous coordination problems. Costly construction delays can result, and the cost of public construction goes up.

“Wicks Law reform is long overdue,” said Lisa Davis, executive director of the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association. “A repeal of this onerous requirement for suburban public school districts will help reduce the cost impact of school construction on the local taxpayer, and shorten the timeline to complete capital construction projects.”

Using a conservative 10 percent cost-savings estimate, the Wicks Law added at least $1 billion in costs to New York school construction projects in the past five years.

Karen Zevin, President of the Croton School Board, gave an example of how Wicks negatively impacted their school district and taxpayers: "In the past 10 years, enrollment in the Croton-Harmon Union Free School District grew by 26 percent. To accommodate that growth, the school district added additional space at each of its three schools,” said Zevin. “We estimate that the Wick's law resulted in costs amounting to 10% to 15% of our total new construction bond ($3.6M to $5.4M). Over the 20 year course of the loan, Wick's Law amounts to potentially $7.5 million dollars in additional costs for the district. Currently, this additional cost due to Wick's law translates to a 1% increase in tax levy each year."

Willa Brody, President of the Eastchester Board of Education agreed, “This has been a long awaited and welcome reform. The Wicks law has created an extra layer of costs for districts and inefficiencies in managing construction contracts and projects,” said Brody. “When there are issues with projects as often happens, no one takes responsibility, thereby resulting in coordination problems, disputes and delays. Bottom line, it is expensive and extremely wasteful."