That supposedly fiscally conservative legislature has essentially created for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system a situation that will just plain waste public money: The system will end up paying more than twice as much to pave school parking lots.

When it reconvenes, the legislature should consider how our school system and others are being affected by this situation.

Legislators, in what they saw as an attempt to save money and help the paving industry flourish, included in their state budget bill a provision requiring the Department of Transportation to start outsourcing certain road work to the private sector, the Journal’s Arika Herron reported. “The mandate resulted in the Department of Transportation district that includes Forsyth County disbanding the crew that has been paving school parking lots, meaning that the school district will have to return to bidding the work out to private contractors,” Herron reported.

Darrell Walker, assistant superintendent of operations for the local school district, told the Journal that the district was mainly using the DOT crew to chip seal student parking lots. The average price from the DOT has been about $5.25 per square yard, he said, and he estimates that the private-sector move will cost the district about $12 per square yard.

“This may force us to really push some projects back that we had planned on doing earlier,” he said.

The budget bill provision mandates that the DOT outsource more of its pavement preservation work over the next four years. At least 80 percent of the department’s pavement preservation budget must be going to the private paving industry by 2018, Herron reported.

Emily McGraw, the state maintenance operations engineer, told Herron that the provision could save the state money in the long run. “When you have state forces do that work, there are overhead expenditures that are not necessarily captured,” McGraw said. “For our analysis, the costs aren’t all that different.”

That’s the long view, anyway. But from our vantage point, paying more than twice as much, to the point that needed projects must be curtailed, just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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