Author Archives: CIFAC Staff

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League of California Cities

League of California Cities Transportation Funding Toolkit

SB 1 Toolkit (Updated: 03/21/18)

The goal of the city and county toolkit is to help you inform and educate your community about projects and associated benefits that are being made possible by SB 1 – the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The information is most informative/effective when you provide specific details about local projects happening in your city/county.

Additional SB1 Toolkit information here

SB 1: The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017

For cities, SB 1 will double the amount of revenues they each receive from the state for their local street maintenance and rehabilitation needs. Annually, $500 to $650 million will go to cities statewide, allocated on a per capita basis. A vast majority of the new revenues for cities will come out of the newly created Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account (RMRA) where cities will have to prioritize fixing their existing infrastructure first before having some additional flexibility for those funds for other transportation needs.

Below, is a listing of the estimated revenue generated from of SB 1 and when they go into effect:

  • $1.8 billion – 12 cent increase to gasoline excise tax (Nov. 1, 2017)
  • $730 million – 20 cent increase to diesel excise tax (Nov. 1, 2017)
  • $300 million – 4% addition to diesel sales tax (Nov. 1, 2017)
  • $704 million – One-time loan repayment (2017-2020)
  • $1.6 billion – $25-$175 transportation improvement fee (Jan 1, 2018)
  • $1.1 billion – 17.3 cent reset of price-based gas tax (July 1, 2019)
  • $20 million - $100 zero emission vehicle registration fee (July 1, 2020)

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See Something Say Something Banner

If you See Something, Say Something – It’s Not Just a Cliché

By Patricia (Patti) Rascon Southern Regional Compliance Manager. –

Just like any valuable tradesperson, the Regional Compliance Manager (RCM) team at CIFAC relies on many tools of the trade to empower us to complete our jobs. While we continuously monitor agendas in our respective regions to pinpoint force account violations, we also rely on alerts from our industry partners (boots on the ground), networking contacts, educational events and occasionally, Google Alerts. With that being said nothing beats being at the right place at the right time!Patricia (Patti) Rascon, Southern Regional Compliance Manager

What happens when a Public Works department admits to self-performing paving work at a depth over one inch because… “It’s just easier than bidding it out”? Yes, this actually occurred at an event I was attending! This information can and did set the wheels in motion for a closer look.

Straightforward information in problem solving includes the Five W’s: Who, What, Where, When and Why. In this scenario we know who and why. During the preliminary stages of my investigation, I located the issuance of two purchase orders for “Bulk Street Materials”. In of itself, this is a common practice, but when you factor in the purchase of a new grading tractor, a heavy duty loader and the admission of self-performing work, it definitely warrants an investigation! With a public records request in place, the missing blanks of what, where and when will soon be revealed to me, and will ultimately determine the outcome for this agency.

CIFAC values our industry partners and we strive to maintain integrity with all agencies concerning bidding, force account and the like. If you see something, say something, we are just a phone call or click away at www.cifac.org


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Force Account Limit and Bid Threshold Article Banner

Force Account Limit and Bid Threshold, What’s the Difference?

By Matthew (Matt) Hilliard, Bay Area Regional Compliance Manager. -

Our members, partners and supporters are frequently asking; “What’s the difference between a public agency’s force account limit and their bid threshold.” The person asking the question tends to be confused because they think they are one and the same.Matthew (Matt) Hilliard, Bay Area Regional Compliance Manager

Here's the difference by definition.

The Force Account limit is the limit of work that a public agency can do with its own forces before they must go out for competitive bids. Force account is the dollar value of labor, materials and equipment at the rate the public agencies charge themselves. Labor cost calculations are based on the entity’s actual cost of labor. Force account limits do not apply to maintenance work.

The Bid Threshold is the dollar amount at which an entity, if they are going to use a contractor, must bid out the work. This is sometimes set by a local ordinance, but is commonly used with Charter Cities. It may, but does not need to be the same as their force account limit.

Here’s where limits and thresholds get a little tricky, but we are available to help.

California State Law (General Law) defined in the California Public Contract Code (PCC) sets the force account limits and bid thresholds for public agencies. They vary by type of agency. For example, a general law city has a force account limit of $5,000, while a county has a $4,000 limit if their population is less than 500,000 and $6,500 if it is above 500,000. All new work over that amount must be formally advertised for competitive bid. School Districts and Special Districts have different force account limits.

Charter Cities can write their own rules but the local voters must approve these rules. They may set force account limits and bidding thresholds at different levels. CIFAC will always encourage Cities to follow general law when it comes to the public contracting section of their Charter.

Then there are public agencies that are signatory to the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act (CUCCAA). They can self-perform the work to $45,000 and use informal bidding up to $175,000, above which they must advertise for formal bidding.

As you have read, the definitions of force account limits and bid thresholds are clearly different and there are a variety of formulas Counties, Cities and Special Districts use. That is why CIFAC exists. We use our expert knowledge of the Public Contract Code to help you with your questions and get you the answers you need.


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What is CUCCAA Banner Image

What is CUCCAA?

The California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act, or CUCCAA, is a term that gets thrown around a lot when talking about local public agencies, but what is it?

The Act is legislation enacted in 1983 to help promote “uniformity of the cost accounting standards and bidding procedures on construction work performed or contracted by public entities in the state.” Section 22001. The Act is a voluntary program available to all public entities in the State, but only applies to those public agencies that have “opted in” to the provisions set forth by the Act. The Act can be found in its entirety under Public Contract Code section 22000 et seq.

It allows local agencies to perform work with their force account up to $45,000. It also allows the agencies to informally bid a project up to $175,000. Because local agencies choose to become a signatory to the Act, they can leave the Act whenever they like.

Many participants praise the Act because it gives them more leeway to get public works projects done by speeding up the awards process, improving timelines for project completion, and has eliminated considerable amounts of red tape related to bidding projects. This benefits contractors because it means more public works projects are going out to bid, equating to more work for the construction industry.

There is a commission within the California State Controller’s office that oversees the Act and ensures local agencies are following the provisions outlined in Public Contract Code sections 22000 to 22045. The Commission is made up of seven members from the private sector and seven members in the public sector, and they receive no pay for being a part of the commission.

Should an agency be found out of compliance with CUCCAA, a formal complaint can be filed and the Commission will investigate the complaint and then deliver a verdict on whether the agency was in the wrong.

When an agency is found to be out of compliance, the Commission will issue a “strike” against the agency. If an agency receives three strikes over a 10 year period they are disqualified from the Act and must wait three years before they can file to be part of the Act again.

Overall, the Act gives public agencies that participate benefits as a tradeoff for additional compliance measures. The Commission and the ability to file a complaint against an agency is an additional tool to help bring an agency out of compliance with the Public Contract Code back into compliance.


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When In Doubt Bid It Out - Waterline Extension Spring Valley

When In Doubt, Bid It Out

By Justin Bochmann, Central Regional Compliance Manager. -

Recent CIFAC investigation provides a perfect example of how projects valued close to the force account limit should be bid out.

Overview: In February, CIFAC’s Central Regional Compliance Manager, Justin Bochmann, investigated a waterline extension project taking place in the city of Valley Springs. This particular project was done by a negotiated contract instead of being put out to bid. One of the first things he checked when starting this investigation was the PWC-100 form on the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) website. This provided a good bit of information on the project, including the awarded contract amount. Through this form, Bochmann learned that this project was only a few hundred dollars shy of the agency’s $45,000 force account limit, giving him reason to request more information from the awarding agency pertaining to actual cost of the project. After obtaining the requested documents, Bochmann was able to conclude that the total project cost had actually gone over the agency’s $45,000 force account limit, which put them in violation of Public Contract Code (PCC) Section 22042 (b): Exceeded the force account limits.

Justin Bochmann Central Regional Compliance Manager - CIFACThe Details: During the course of his investigation, Bochmann identified certain costs associated with the project that were not listed in the original construction contract. These were directly associated with the project, occurred during the time of construction, and were necessary for the completion of it. The agency did not include these costs on the PWC-100 form because they were not done by the actual contractor performing construction of the project, but instead by the engineering firm tasked with designing the project. The agency was unaware that this needed to be included in the total project cost, and it ultimately led to the project going over their force account limit.

The Takeaway: When agencies decide to design and construct a public works project, there are strict dollar limits for the ability to use force account and when informal or formal bidding procedures are required. Because this particular agency adopted the California Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act (CUCCAA), they are provided a $45,000 limit to use their own force for construction or to negotiate a contract. With a lot of construction projects, unforeseen costs arise during the course of construction. Sometimes this comes in the form of additional construction needed to complete the project that was not included in the original scope. Other times, agencies may run into problems with easement or similarly related land use issues. In this case, it was the latter. Because the original construction contract was only a few hundred dollars shy of their limit, it left them with very little wiggle room for additional costs to be incurred. As a general rule of thumb, if the cost estimate of a project is approaching the force account limit, it should be put out to bid. This can prevent any future headaches for the agency and eliminate the possibility of violating the Public Contract Code. Unfortunately for this agency, they learned the hard way and an investigation by CIFAC was able to bring this to light.


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Illusion or Fact Building

ILLUSION or FACT?

By Patricia (Patti) Rascon, Southern Regional Compliance Manager. -

Enacted in 1983, the California Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act (referred to as the ACT) provides public agencies economic benefits and greater freedom to expedite public works projects. Their Policies and Procedures Manual offers a plethora of information, and provides systematic instructions for adoption or discontinuance of the ACT.

Regional Compliance Manger’s regularly refer to the List of Participating Agencies while investigating potential violations of the ACT. Two scenarios come into play; they have opted in or opted out. It is not as simple as “Abracadabra”, the Office of the State Controller must be notified in writing, and in other words, “selective” adherence to the terms of the ACT is a violation.

Patricia (Patti) Rascon, Southern Regional Compliance ManagerAlerted to the City self-performing the building of a pony wall around the perimeter of a basketball court, my initial investigation confirmed the issuance of a RFP and the award of a contract for a new basketball court. The pony wall was not included in the original scope of work. Classified as General Law, their force account limit was $5000. In discussions with the Interim Public Works Director, I asked for all cost accounting documentation relating to the wall (since it was likely they exceeded their limit). Apparently, we were unaware they were signatory, and the conversation segued to becoming as such. Because CIFAC is all about educating agencies, I provided him with the link to the California Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act, and offered my assistance should he need any additional information.

Along with the financial documentation, I received a copy of the resolution approved by the City Council opting into the ACT. What? My initial research confirmed they were not signatory. After contacting the State Controller’s Office, I determined the city neglected to file the paperwork with them, I notified the City Clerk, paperwork was filed and they are compliant.

Things are not always what they seem, and not unlike the Magic show, “sleight-of-hand” can intervene, the devil is in the details.


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Pismo Beach, Bello Street Veterans Building

Following Proper Contracting Procedures Results in Cost Savings Benefit

By Anthony (Tony) Morelli, Southwestern Regional Compliance Manager.

It was recently brought to my attention that the Public Works Director for the City of Pismo Beach would ask the City Council to approve an upcoming agenda item regarding a change order for a grading and paving contractor, in the amount of $137,380.00.

Upon additional research, I discovered that the intended change order was for their Bello Veterans’ Hall Parking Lot Project. This was located on the same street as their Bello Street Paving Project currently underway by a grading and paving contractor per his original contract issued by the city for $124,554.00.  Somewhere along the way, city staff asked the contractor for a quote to also pave, stripe and install wheel stops in their Bello Veteran’s Hall Parking Lot. The contractor provided an additional estimate to do the extra work for $137,380.Anthony (Tony) Morelli, Southwestern Regional Compliance Manager

I reached out to the city to inform them that they really needed to bid-out the Bello Veteran’s Hall Parking Lot Project, since it obviously was a separate project and not a part of the original scope of work issued to the paving contractor. I further advised the city that contract change orders are generally written when their needs to be changes to the original contract, usually brought about by unforeseen circumstances and MUST fall within the original scope of the work.

Read More


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Ukiah Sidewalk Work image

The City of Ukiah Bids Work Listed in Change Order

After a letter from CIFAC, the City of Ukiah decided to bid a $71,000 paving and sidewalk project. This work had previously been listed in a change order, but CIFAC was able to convince the agency to bid the work.

On January 17, CIFAC was contacted about a change order pertaining to the work being done at the Grace Hudson Museum. The person said they were concerned because the paving and sidewalk work listed in the change order was not part of the original scope of work.

CIFAC looked into the matter and agreed. CIFAC wrote the Ukiah City Manager and City Council a letter outlining her concerns and submitted it a few hours ahead of the meeting. The item was pulled from the consent calendar at the January 17 meeting.

On February 2, CIFAC received an email from the Director of Purchasing. She explained that even though the City’s attorney said they were within their right to add the work via a change order, the City would be putting the project out to bid. CIFAC checked the February 7 City Council agenda, and noted the project is listed as an agenda item with the recommendation to put the work out to bid.

CIFAC was very happy with the outcome. “Area contractors now get the opportunity to bid a project not listed in the original scope of work instead of the work being performed via a change order,”.

“I greatly appreciate the City of Ukiah vetting my concerns and making a decision that ultimately benefits the community”.


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ABC’s of Public Works Bidding in California

By Michelle Tucker, Executive Director

One of the most frequent calls we get at the CIFAC office is from a contractor wondering what the requirements are to be able to bid on public works projects. As money's raining down from SB1, the November 2014 Prop.1 water bond and another bond issue on the ballot June 5th, we’re sure we are going to be getting a lot more of these calls.

To help these contractors, we are offering this simplified list of requirements for bidding and performing any construction project in the state that includes taxpayer funding. The fundamental requirement leads to a host of more complicated questions but the basics are the basics everywhere.Michelle Tucker, Executive Director

It all starts with the Public Contract Code, the section of California law that establishes the rules of the road for public works contractors and their customers. Public Contract Code (PCC) applies in one respect or another to virtually all-public entities in California.

Public Contract Code §1100 contains an express declaration of legislative intent, stating that the purpose of the Code is to:

  • To clarify the law with respect to competitive bidding requirements.
  • To ensure full compliance with competitive bidding statutes as a means of protecting the public from misuse of public funds.
  • To provide all qualified bidders with a fair opportunity to enter the bidding process, thereby stimulating competition in a manner conducive to sound fiscal practices.
  • To eliminate favoritism, fraud, and corruption in the awarding of public contracts.

The importance of competitive bidding stems from the California Constitution and more than 140 years of California Supreme Court precedents.

First Things First

Therefore, if you want to bid public works in California, there are, as you might expect a bunch of rules.

The first rule is that you must be a licensed contractor, meeting the requirements of the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). In California, anyone who contracts to perform construction work that is valued at $500 or more in combined labor and materials costs must hold a current, valid license from the CSLB.

Your license will not say “Public Works,” of course but, instead, cover one of the two big categories; General Engineering (A) or Building (B) for general contractors or one of the 40+ specialty trade licenses (C) and the more exotic hazardous materials categories allowing you to perform work as a subcontractor in your specialty.

We hear you now saying “I’ve already got a license, so I’m good to go!” but the question is, do you have the correct license, as specified in the Request For Proposals (RFP) issued by the agency for whom you want to work. In either case, your work starts at the licensing website www.cslb.ca.gov and for more specialized information visit http://www.cslb.ca.gov/About_Us/Library/Licensing_Classifications/.

CSLB is more than a licensing agency, they are also an enforcement agency and here are the two big areas where CSLB is concerned with public works.

  • Bids that don’t include all work needed
  • Failure of contractors to complete work in a timely fashion

First, it is imperative that contractors provide awarding agencies bids that reflect the entire known work at the time of the bid. It is not appropriate for a contractor to low-ball a bid to get a job, and then try to increase the contract amount later with change orders. Disciplinary action has been taken in this area.

Second, CSLB is seeing an increasing number of public works jobs that are not being finished on time. Business &Professions Code §7119 requires that a contractor show due diligence in completing contracted work. Not doing so also gives CSLB a cause to take disciplinary action against a license.

No Rest for the Weary

After acquiring the proper license, your next step will be registration as a Public Works Contractor with the state Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) for any work performed that costs at least $15,000.

That means your next stop is at https://www.dir.ca.gov/public-works/contractors.html where the state labor agency runs you through the gauntlet of registration, paying a $400 fee for the privilege and learning the mandatory steps you must meet after you’ve registered.

The simple list is pay prevailing wages, follow apprenticeship requirements, maintain, and submit certified payroll records, but none of these requirements are simple. If you are signatory with any of the basic construction trade unions this will be familiar ground, but make sure you are following the DIR guidance.

The Homeboys

Finally, the work is performed for a local agency/government/special district and the rules vary from town to school board to publically owned utility, etc., so the “Know Thy Customer” requirement for every business applies.

There have been many lawsuits filed over the years to determine what “public funds” means, but in essence, it is any job that has a cent of tax money in the funding, from a parking lot of a movie theater in the Mohave Desert to the massive bridge replacement in the Long Beach harbor; all are “publically funded.

If you have completed all the necessary CSLB and DIR steps, you still face challenges at the local level, starting with “prequalification.” All large public agencies and many smaller ones have prequalification requirements for their work. It has been in the PCC since 1999 for agency work and school districts.

Over the years, these criteria have morphed into a tangled web of differing standards so it is the contractor’s job to make sure they understand the local requirements in each jurisdiction.

This is an area where CIFAC does a lot of work, making sure that cities and other agencies follow the law. One area of major concern is in the actions of charter cities that often try to subvert the spirit if not the letter of the code.

Friends in the Business

Our final word of advice for contractors interested in bidding public works is that they join a trade association in their area, one of the many specialty groups that gather like-oriented contractors (plumbers, electricians, etc.) or one of the larger, broader groups that represent contractors across a broad array of interests.

Trade associations are more than a social club. Many are your representatives in union negotiations. Many will stand in your place regarding disagreements about the bidding and other practices of public works agencies. All of them concentrate the political power of your industry in Sacramento, county courthouses and city halls around the state to deliver collective efforts to improve the lot of contractors. Most of them provide educational programs about changes in laws and regulations that affect your business and share that information through their communications programs.

CIFAC works with many of the trade associations to help their members with these issues. If you are not a member, you should be. Become a member today.


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Paving the Way with ADEA image

Paving the Way with ADEA

By Patricia Rascon, Southwestern Regional Compliance Manager

What is ADEA and how does it potentially benefit our construction industry? ADEA is the acronym for the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. By crushing the stereotypes that prevent companies from recognizing the variety of strengths they currently have, such as wisdom, experience and reliability, older workers can be part of the solution to ease the skilled worker shortage the construction industry.

Fifty years ago, with the enactment of ADEA, it-opened opportunities for older workers by disallowing most age limits and the requirement of equal treatment of workers without regard to age. Victoria A. Lipnic, Acting Chair for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wrote, “The ADEA is based on the principal that ability matters-not age. No one should be denied a job or should lose a job based on the assumptions of stereotypes. Age is just a number. It doesn’t define one’s ability, potential or value. That is the purpose and promise of the ADEA.”Patricia (Patti) Rascon, Southern Regional Compliance Manager

Fast forward to November 2016, and in the publication of Engineering News-Record (ENR), there was a call-to-action for more mentoring in the construction industry. The caption, “Eat lunch where you don’t belong”, suggested that one should immerse him or her self into the company with something as simple as eating lunch with their colleagues, talking shop with them and learning about what they do. With the workforce still comprised of older workers, companies and apprentices alike can take advantage of the mentor/mentee relationship opportunities.

As a twenty-year member with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), I have benefited from many opportunities to tap into the experiences of those who came before me. I have not only gained more knowledge about the construction industry, I continue to make life long friends who continue to share their knowledge with me. Mentoring comes in many forms, and the benefits are many. Building relationships are key and I believe we should pay it forward. I challenge you to reflect on how you started your career, your successes and failures and think about how YOU can reinvest and pave the way for someone else.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”