Change sought in school district bidding laws

Many Missouri public school districts have students and patrons in more than one county — and that can affect how their school boards operate.

Because some of the rules are different in first class counties — like Cole, Callaway, Boone and Camden in Mid-Missouri — than in the rest of the state.

Throughout most of the state, school board members can sell goods and services to their districts, as long as they are the low bidder in a competitive bidding process.

But state law makes that action a misdemeanor crime and requires the school board member to forfeit the office in Missouri’s 18 first class counties, which have the highest property value assessments.

For the second year, state Sen. Mike Kehoe wants lawmakers to change that, so that the law is the same no matter where the school district’s borders are.

“(This) is a very simple bill,” Kehoe told the Senate’s Education Committee Wednesday afternoon. “It affects mainly, rural school districts that might have a piece of their district in a larger, first-class county.

“It simply allows board members who serve on our smaller, rural boards — and/or their families — to be eligible to bid on various projects in the school districts.”

The current state law affects school districts based in a smaller county but that extend into a first class county — such as the Jamestown C-1 District in third-class Moniteau County, that also includes a small part of northwestern Cole County.

“Many times in our smaller communities,” Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, told the Senate committee, “if you’re building a project and you need concrete footings, the local concrete guy might also be on your school board.”

But if the district extends into a first class county, Kehoe added, “Because he is (on the board), you have to go 50 miles away to buy it, and it becomes very costly.”

The Senate passed a similar bill last year on a 32-0 vote. But the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee never endorsed that bill for a full House debate.

Kehoe said Owensville school officials asked him to pursue the law change, “because even though they’re in Gasconade County, a little piece of their district is in Franklin County, and (that) created a problem for them.”

No one opposed the bill Wednesday.

Mike Reid of the Missouri School Boards Assn. told the committee the plan “is a good bill that remedies a problem that has happened in several school districts. We appreciate the opportunity to make sure that it gets fixed.”

And Mike Lodewegen, representing the Missouri Associations of School Administrators and School Business Officials, testified: “We just feel it’s a common sense thing to do, that opens up some opportunity to invest in your local community.”

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