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Utah charter lobbyist says procurement code’s lease exception protects schools

Dec 7, 2016 by

Education » Limited space could be bought out and tenant prices increased if potential locations disclosed in advance.

When a Utah school district builds a new campus, administrators traditionally outsource construction after soliciting bids from private companies.

That process is outlined in Utah’s Procurement Code, which requires public entities to solicit bids for services in an effort to drive down taxpayer cost through competition.

But the sequence is sometimes reversed at charter schools — which are individual school districts under Utah law — with private firms independently building a facility and then leasing it to a public occupant.

Those leases are exempt from procurement, meaning the negotiation and price-setting that occur before a lease is signed can be conducted in private.

Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said the lease exemption protects schools from predatory landlords.

There is a limited number of existing commercial space, he said, and requiring public entities to disclose their facility needs would allow someone to buy out an eligible building and increase tenant prices.

“Having the public process makes the likelihood of those predatory practices significantly higher,” Van Tassell said. “They know you’ve got a finite set of options and are going to take advantage of that.”

Van Tassell’s comments came in response to accusations by outgoing Rep. Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan, that a new charter school in Herriman violated the spirit of procurement law by leasing its location, without a bid process, from the same company that provides management services to the school.

Source: Utah charter lobbyist says procurement code’s lease exception protects schools | The Salt Lake Tribune

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