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View Full Version : Bid on 50 acre school grounds


josco
03-26-2007, 08:00 PM
This would be the largest job I've ever done. I have always mowed solo. This would be all I would need for the mowing portion of my business. I am currently doing 75% chemical lawn care, 15% plant installations, 10% mowing. I am thinking either hire one guy or use a sub. Bidding this at 40 per acre = $2000.00 per cut. I know this would take at least 3 days with 2 guys mowing. I feel hesitant about taking something this large on. Is anyone currently mowing something this size? Is this too much to even consider? Is it possible with just 2 guys? Is 40 per acre reasonable? Any replies would be appreciated. Thanks.

ToroLandscaper
03-26-2007, 08:16 PM
what size cut mowers are you using? and how many?

fiveoboy01
03-26-2007, 08:20 PM
Sad to say but if there are other companies bidding, at 40/acre you probably won't get it simply because it's school grounds. From what I've seen, they go cheap, way too cheap.

GMP
03-26-2007, 08:57 PM
This would be the largest job I've ever done. I have always mowed solo. This would be all I would need for the mowing portion of my business. I am currently doing 75% chemical lawn care, 15% plant installations, 10% mowing. I am thinking either hire one guy or use a sub. Bidding this at 40 per acre = $2000.00 per cut. I know this would take at least 3 days with 2 guys mowing. I feel hesitant about taking something this large on. Is anyone currently mowing something this size? Is this too much to even consider? Is it possible with just 2 guys? Is 40 per acre reasonable? Any replies would be appreciated. Thanks.

What part of ohio are you in?

GMP
03-26-2007, 09:04 PM
What part of Ohio are you in?

I am from the Medina area and looking for extra work

William Camp
03-26-2007, 09:34 PM
I just lost a school bid and i bid it at$ 20.00 an archer the winning was $12.50 sorry.

josco
03-26-2007, 10:25 PM
Answering 2 questions, I would be using 2, 60 inch ztr's. Also I am from southwest ohio.

sildoc
03-26-2007, 10:29 PM
you are going to be looking at around 20 an acre to even be close to competitive.

sildoc
03-26-2007, 10:31 PM
This is where bat wings and other super large area mowers come in and make the money. I would have a 52 for the smaller grounds and a tractor with a 16-24' reel mower on it. these bids are just to get it cut not to make it look good. I see our schools here and puke when I pick up my kid. tons of clover and weeds. and these are less than 2 year installs. million dollar landscaping for 2 schools and looks like crap.

green acres lawns
03-26-2007, 11:01 PM
I just bid on one and lost. its 59 acres and the winning bid was 16.35 per acre by a company that has to drive from 40 miles away. Most of the bids were in the 18 to 22 dollar/acre range. Schools only look for the cheapest bid.

Swampy
03-26-2007, 11:07 PM
the reason you have weeds is cause the school is to cheap to spend the money for spraying and if they do, then they just do the front of the building.

Using 60in ZTR's to mow fields won't be profitable. I'd use at least two 72in out fronts, or a Multiwing/Batwing. If you want to enter higher acreage accouts at least start with a 72".

pclawncare
03-26-2007, 11:23 PM
40 bucks is way too high if you really want it. I lost a bid this year to mexicans they won at 15 bucks an acre. I dont see how they are making any money thought they have like 8 guys on it with john deere jx75s and 2 guys trimming. No riding mowers no nothing just walk behind. I think they are crazy

Runner
03-26-2007, 11:46 PM
Here, we have a large school system that was being done for about 10 an acre. The co. that was doing this did it for a number of ears, and was recently let go (for other reasons- involving some "mis-allocation" of funds.Whoever gets this next season will have to come pretty close.

Fordsuvparts
03-26-2007, 11:50 PM
Our company has the entire local school system that consist of 9 different sites and about 50 acres all together. There are 2 football fields and 2 soccer fields that are mowed twice a week most of the time and then they have several pratice fields. We do everything from the mowing and landscaping, spraying to the snowplowing. We don't make a lot of money on the mowing, but it is very good for business to have a large commercial customer for other potential customer to look at our work.

GreenN'Clean
03-27-2007, 09:30 AM
I stay away from school jobs because they want the cheapest bidder and I'm not willing to something to just break even

LwnmwrMan22
03-27-2007, 10:12 AM
This will be my 5th year of mowing the local school district.

There's 5 schools, roughly 70 acres of turf.

Using an 11' WAM, along with a Kubota 4330 tractor with another 11' pullbehind, and a 60" mower (not all machines running at the same time), plus the trimming, it's 2 VERY long days (about 16 hours each) to get it all done with 1.5 guys.

I say 1.5 guys, because there's times when I'm running behind, that my dad'll come over and run the tractor for me for about 6-7 hours of each day.

Anyways, we're at $36,000 for the year, flat fee. This is based on 6 months, or 24 mowings. That means we're right at $21.50 / acre.

If you want to talk an hourly rate, that means we're at $31.25 / hour.

Now, where the money comes in, is nothing is irrigated other than the fields for the varsity team. The football field, the baseball field, the softball field and the soccer field.

Last year, it didn't rain for 2.5 months, and we skipped the whole district (other than those 4 fields) and now you're at $40 / hour, plus the fact that there wasn't any trimming to do for that 2 month stretch, which I didn't factor in those savings.

Yes, I DO run between $75 - 100 / hour on my 1-2 acre commercial properties.

BUT, this school district gets bid lower than what I'm being paid, however the board throws those bids out, because the companies only have 52 or 60" mowers.

About the weeds. At this school district, my mom (retired this year) was the gal that opened all the mail. She would see all the bids, whether for milk bids, fuel bids, mowing bids, spraying bids.

The mowing / spraying bids, she would make copies so I could compare notes.

SUPPOSEDLY, TG/CL is spraying the entire district for $2000. Now, I couldn't even buy 3/4 of the chemical I would need to spray this much, let alone just charge that for labor.

The head grounds guy HATED it, because he knew they weren't getting all the weeds. In fact, a couple of years, they've hired me to spray around the senior high 2 weeks before graduation, so the weeds would be dead.

They don't call Tru-Green, because the response time isn't fast enough.

rodfather
03-27-2007, 04:26 PM
School bids go so cheap I don't even bother anymore...I have 5 72" machines and I'll be damned if I am going to run them for 15 bucks an acre. That's insane IMO.

jrc lawncare
03-27-2007, 04:56 PM
School bids go so cheap I don't even bother anymore...I have 5 72" machines and I'll be damned if I am going to run them for 15 bucks an acre. That's insane IMO. Right. It's not like these are inexpensive machines to buy. Mowing for $15 an acre is ******ed. Barely breaking even on it. Insane is right.

topsites
03-27-2007, 05:04 PM
Investing more of your business than you are willing to lose tends to be a bad idea, more so if the bling bling affects your true sight.

You could, as a test, over the next 5 or so years oberve those who service it, and by paying careful attention from year to year you should be able to draw certain conclusions.

maintenanceguy
03-27-2007, 05:31 PM
I don't know how it works in Ohio but in NJ, government body's are required to put any work over a certain dollar amount out for a formal bid.

The school board is then obligated to accept the lowest bid unless there is a specific legal reason to disqualify the bid.

School's know that the lowest bidder is going to provide crap work (in construciton, paper, cleaning supplies, roofing, and lawncare) but that's the law.

Can't hire the best company, have to hire the cheapest.

meets1
03-27-2007, 05:39 PM
Just lost one bid today in regards to a school system. They bid it out every year. 4 yrs ago - 36 / acre, 2 yrs ago 18 / acre, this year winning bid was $16.60 / acre. Sad thing is the same guy lower his bid from the previous 2 years. I bid at $18.50 - cheap yes but nice work cuz I am close to this account also.

This guys idea is to have his wife mow on saturdays to work on her tan cuz he says it doesn't cost him anything to have wife mowen and not his crew.

rodfather
03-27-2007, 05:44 PM
I don't know how it works in Ohio but in NJ, government body's are required to put any work over a certain dollar amount out for a formal bid.


I seem to remember $17,000...not sure if it has gone up in the last couple years.

meets1
03-27-2007, 06:12 PM
Forget it! Just lost another bid from a school today. My bid $18.50. Bid that got it was around $15 / acre. The guy who got it under bid himself from 2 yrs ago (every two years they rebid) but I guess he also won the bid. Nice job for us cuz I have stuff all around the school but what do ya do.

Be prepared for the $12 - $16 range to bid. If you can't make money on that or have the correct equipment - WALK - trott - the RUN!

DLCS
03-27-2007, 06:33 PM
We have a local school that bids out their mowing every year. I was the lowest bidder one year and for the last 3 years they gave to someone else. Funny thing is this guy is alwasy higher for the year. Last year I asked the board why he was selected when his bid is more than all the others. Their reason was he has children that go to the school. I told them this year to not even invite me to bid. So its not only price it is also lots of politics too that you have to deal within a school district. Not for me.

LwnmwrMan22
03-27-2007, 07:11 PM
I must be in the minority here, because I get the board to increase the rate before the next contract is ever up.

Last 2 years, it was $5500 / month for 6 months, they renewed the contract for 2007-2008 in the spring of 2006 for a $500 / month increase.

They also approved (last week) me charging an extra $500 / month for mowing the football field, baseball field, softball field and soccer field twice / week in the spring time, or else there were too many clumps. That $500 / month is for the whole summer, even though we just mow 2 x's / week for the month of May and June, since after that, the baseball and softball teams are done, and it's dry in the fall when soccer and football are playing, the extra mowing isn't needed.

We're up to $6500 / month now $1000 / month more from last year.

I think the thing that helps, is that before I got this bid, it had been bid out the 2 years previously. Both times the winning bids were doing it with 52" and 60" mowers. The second year, the guy had (2) 52" standers and a 60" John Deere garden tractor mower.

We know where we can skip the trimming if we need to. We know what areas can be skipped weekly if we're behind. No one cares as long as it looks good from a set of bleachers if it's a sports field, or from the road, when people drive by in their cars.

I DO know this. When it was published that we were awarded the bid for $36,000 to mow the schools, the next week there was an editorial from a local farmer stating that for $36,000, the next time it's up for bid, that he's going to bid at $35,000, because that's some good money, too much to be paid to just mow grass. I'm paraphrasing, but it's dang close to what he said.

THAT'S what you're dealing with as well, public perception. After all, it's tax money at work as well. With the board that I'm dealing with, as long as they're not hearing complaints, they're happy with the work being done for the money being paid.

fiveoboy01
03-27-2007, 08:24 PM
I DO know this. When it was published that we were awarded the bid for $36,000 to mow the schools, the next week there was an editorial from a local farmer stating that for $36,000, the next time it's up for bid, that he's going to bid at $35,000, because that's some good money, too much to be paid to just mow grass. I'm paraphrasing, but it's dang close to what he said.


That's funny. But true, public perception and the stupid mentality that "anyone can cut grass". The guy obviously has no clue about what it takes and especially the costs involved when it comes to equipment, fuel and expendables.

Maybe anyone can cut grass, but not anyone can make it look good. I see numerous businesses in industrial parks around here that downright look like crap right after they've been cut. Almost like the guys are just mowing wherever with no thought to what the cut or their pattern will look like when they're done.

DLCS
03-27-2007, 08:49 PM
You all know what the school district would look like, if that farmer mowed it. LOL Seriously though, anyone can cut grass but to do a good job and make a living at it is another story. The easiest part of this job is the mowing, its the other 500 tasks that people don't see, is the hard part.

josco
03-27-2007, 09:49 PM
Thank you all for your replies. It is nice to hear your feedback and to know that there are so many of you eager to help. Your advice has been very helpful.

fargoboy
03-27-2007, 09:58 PM
throw my opinion in here. School districts are like lawn customers some are cheap and some want first class. some are PIA's and some you wouldn't know that you did anything for them and thus the great variances in answers but pay attention to lwnmwrmanzz answers. Prices sometimes go up, sometimes there are extras that go beyond the contract, and sometimes an old alumni dies and leaves a big block of money to plant a tree with lifetime maintenance.

PRO:school districts always pay the bill and usually within 30 days. As long as you comply with the contract, I have never heard of a school district that didn't pay the bill.


Con: some school districts do not allow you to cut during school hrs. Worse yet is the question of field usage. The athelic director tells you when. Absolute pits, each coach has his own ideas on mow heights. Gets a little trickey when you have football and lacross on the same field. one wants 1/2 inch and the other 3 inches. try that with 2 days between games, did I mention practices.

Laws and regulations: multiple state and federal laws come into play. States like PA and NJ require all employees are screened for criminals records such as Meegan laws and Act 151. All child perverts make good grass cutters. You have to pay for these checks and if you have a high employee turnover look out and sometimes they take several weeks to do. Federal law mandates impact zones around playground equipment. you have to be the expert because some of these laws make you personaly responsible and you cant hide in bankruptacy court.

Insurance, insurance, insurance. Make sure that your insurance co is going to cover you for multiple millions. Don't take your agents word for it. get it in writing from the general counsel of the company itself. The kid that trips in a hole dug by a kindergarden kid and broke his ankle. His parents are suing you because that kid had the potential to be better than Peyton Manning. Lawyers are suing for potential lifetime earnings, not broken ankels. John Edwards(presidential candidate) I think won a 12 million dollar suit over the wrong mulch in the impact zone. Some districts never get sued and some average 1 or 2 a day. Your mistake, you didn't notify everyone that there was a little hole out there when you cut the grass. you didn't see it you claim, the lawyer says you were paying attention.

previous posts about weeds. some states prohibit use of chemicals around schools. There are re-entry times if you can use them (try keeping 300 kids in school during recess) Be prepared to sit in a PTA meeting for 6 hrs while some hysterical mothers talk about the three headed baby born in China because they killed a weed. Lice, Lice we never had a problem with Lice till you started cutting the grass

Be prepared to have your name smeared all over the newspaper because a school board member can get good publicity over you leaving a few clumps behind. They never remember a good contractor but they all remember how the school board ripped up that guy. Always allow i hr per meeting to answer questions.

I encourage you to go after it, but do so with open eyes. The big companies have been leaving the market because of big exposure problems. The industry is not for the weak knees but it is easy work. Pay attention to lwnmwrmanzz, you get paid for how little you do, not how much. It is not just school districts but universities and turf fields for local governments. There are also sports association too such as soccer leagues:waving:

fargoboy
03-27-2007, 10:02 PM
throw my opinion in here. School districts are like lawn customers some are cheap and some want first class. some are PIA's and some you wouldn't know that you did anything for them and thus the great variances in answers but pay attention to lwnmwrmanzz answers. Prices sometimes go up, sometimes there are extras that go beyond the contract, and sometimes an old alumni dies and leaves a big block of money to plant a tree with lifetime maintenance.

PRO:school districts always pay the bill and usually within 30 days. As long as you comply with the contract, I have never heard of a school district that didn't pay the bill.


Con: some school districts do not allow you to cut during school hrs. Worse yet is the question of field usage. The athletic director tells you when. Absolute pits, each coach has his own ideas on mow heights. Gets a little trickey when you have football and lacrosse on the same field. one wants 1/2 inch and the other 3 inches. try that with 2 days between games, did I mention practices.

Laws and regulations: multiple state and federal laws come into play. States like PA and NJ require all employees are screened for criminals records such as Meegan laws and Act 151. All child perverts make good grass cutters. You have to pay for these checks and if you have a high employee turnover look out and sometimes they take several weeks to do. Federal law mandates impact zones around playground equipment. you have to be the expert because some of these laws make you personally responsible and you cant hide in bankruptcy court.

Insurance, insurance, insurance. Make sure that your insurance co is going to cover you for multiple millions. Don't take your agents word for it. get it in writing from the general counsel of the company itself. The kid that trips in a hole dug by a kindergarten kid and broke his ankle. His parents are suing you because that kid had the potential to be better than Peyton Manning. Lawyers are suing for potential lifetime earnings, not broken ankles. John Edwards(presidential candidate) I think won a 12 million dollar suit over the wrong mulch in the impact zone. Some districts never get sued and some average 1 or 2 a day. Your mistake, you didn't notify everyone that there was a little hole out there when you cut the grass. you didn't see it you claim, the lawyer says you were paying attention.

previous posts about weeds. some states prohibit use of chemicals around schools. There are re-entry times if you can use them (try keeping 300 kids in school during recess) Be prepared to sit in a PTA meeting for 6 hrs while some hysterical mothers talk about the three headed baby born in China because they killed a weed. Lice, Lice we never had a problem with Lice till you started cutting the grass

Be prepared to have your name smeared all over the newspaper because a school board member can get good publicity over you leaving a few clumps behind. They never remember a good contractor but they all remember how the school board ripped up that guy. Always allow i hr per meeting to answer questions.

I encourage you to go after it, but do so with open eyes. The big companies have been leaving the market because of big exposure problems. The industry is not for the weak knees but it is easy work. Pay attention to lwnmwrmanzz, you get paid for how little you do, not how much. It is not just school districts but universities and turf fields for local governments. There are also sports association too such as soccer leagues:waving:

LwnmwrMan22
03-27-2007, 10:15 PM
throw my opinion in here. School districts are like lawn customers some are cheap and some want first class. some are PIA's and some you wouldn't know that you did anything for them and thus the great variances in answers but pay attention to lwnmwrmanzz answers. Prices sometimes go up, sometimes there are extras that go beyond the contract, and sometimes an old alumni dies and leaves a big block of money to plant a tree with lifetime maintenance.

PRO:school districts always pay the bill and usually within 30 days. As long as you comply with the contract, I have never heard of a school district that didn't pay the bill.

The district I mow, I send out an invoice on the first of the month, and receive the check between the 5th and 7th of the month, depending on how the weekend falls.

Con: some school districts do not allow you to cut during school hrs. Worse yet is the question of field usage. The athelic director tells you when. Absolute pits, each coach has his own ideas on mow heights. Gets a little trickey when you have football and lacross on the same field. one wants 1/2 inch and the other 3 inches. try that with 2 days between games, did I mention practices.

We purposely cut 4 of the 5 schools on weekends to deal with this. The four elementary schools and the middle school. The senior high, there's enough turf where we can mow far away from the school during the day, then when activites start in, we mow around the building. We too deal with the problem of the soccer team and the football team on the same field in the fall. Our saving grace is that the soccer games are usually Tuesday and Thursday, so we mow the field Tuesday morning / Saturday, depending on growth. This gives the grass SOMETHING of a chance to grow out for the football game Friday night.

Laws and regulations: multiple state and federal laws come into play. States like PA and NJ require all employees are screened for criminals records such as Meegan laws and Act 151. All child perverts make good grass cutters. You have to pay for these checks and if you have a high employee turnover look out and sometimes they take several weeks to do. Federal law mandates impact zones around playground equipment. you have to be the expert because some of these laws make you personaly responsible and you cant hide in bankruptacy court.

Insurance, insurance, insurance. Make sure that your insurance co is going to cover you for multiple millions. Don't take your agents word for it. get it in writing from the general counsel of the company itself. The kid that trips in a hole dug by a kindergarden kid and broke his ankle. His parents are suing you because that kid had the potential to be better than Peyton Manning. Lawyers are suing for potential lifetime earnings, not broken ankels. John Edwards(presidential candidate) I think won a 12 million dollar suit over the wrong mulch in the impact zone. Some districts never get sued and some average 1 or 2 a day. Your mistake, you didn't notify everyone that there was a little hole out there when you cut the grass. you didn't see it you claim, the lawyer says you were paying attention.

previous posts about weeds. some states prohibit use of chemicals around schools. There are re-entry times if you can use them (try keeping 300 kids in school during recess) Be prepared to sit in a PTA meeting for 6 hrs while some hysterical mothers talk about the three headed baby born in China because they killed a weed. Lice, Lice we never had a problem with Lice till you started cutting the grass

Be prepared to have your name smeared all over the newspaper because a school board member can get good publicity over you leaving a few clumps behind. They never remember a good contractor but they all remember how the school board ripped up that guy. Always allow i hr per meeting to answer questions.

I encourage you to go after it, but do so with open eyes. The big companies have been leaving the market because of big exposure problems. The industry is not for the weak knees but it is easy work. Pay attention to lwnmwrmanzz, you get paid for how little you do, not how much. It is not just school districts but universities and turf fields for local governments. There are also sports association too such as soccer leagues:waving:


Good post fargoboy.


I've got a couple of my experiences in red in your quote.

Buckeye Lawncare
03-27-2007, 10:21 PM
Answering 2 questions, I would be using 2, 60 inch ztr's. Also I am from southwest ohio.

Where in southwest Ohio are you?

meets1
03-28-2007, 08:29 AM
Without looking back - I did post earlier about a 53 acre bid I lost. I think the guy got it for around $600 something a cut. That is also using some of school's equipment.

AintNoFun
03-28-2007, 09:15 AM
thats something you'd have to bring during bid opening. usually the only way they would use the other guy who is hire is he is "more qualified" then you so they'll reject your. its dont all the time jersey and a great way for the politicians to really get there friends in the dorry... but because he kids go to school there ive never seen a contract awarded because of that...



We have a local school that bids out their mowing every year. I was the lowest bidder one year and for the last 3 years they gave to someone else. Funny thing is this guy is alwasy higher for the year. Last year I asked the board why he was selected when his bid is more than all the others. Their reason was he has children that go to the school. I told them this year to not even invite me to bid. So its not only price it is also lots of politics too that you have to deal within a school district. Not for me.

topsites
03-28-2007, 09:26 AM
Man, after reading this thread and some of the implications (impact zones, don't forget soil compaction on the athletic fields requiring monthly aeration) and the pita complications aspect of it all, I'd either have to bid at least 3 times the going rates or have a huge Lco with more employees standing around than I knew what to do with... That's it, either bid sky high as a solo to ensure all bases are somehow covered and pray heavily that they are, or see it as that place that no matter what happens will keep all your help busy anytime you need to find something for them to do.

Because there just ain't no way, I done been through this lesson a few times, the board hires (or whoever) and next thing you know you've got this joe and that bob all demanding quality time to speak to you over this and that and the other, to them it may seem important and for a while it used to excite me to play the Interior Decorator's version of a lawnfaggot, but nowadays I don't care much for it anymore... It's just like when a customer wants some mulch and here's the price and all of a sudden I find myself walking and talking about this handful over here and that over there and oh you know this here ackandrealotitis plant it is very delicate and oh yes bunch of puckering up kissy-kissy firly fanz bs omg it ain't like we're purchasing a million dollar automobile...

Guess I just lack the tolerance for it, and I still get into it sometimes because it's kinda cool but it gets old quick anymore, and so I really think you need employees to take on contracts, I'm fairly convinced of it and more is better, a permanent business location other than a residential house likely wouldn't hurt, 5 or 10 trucks and along those lines, that kind of Lco can handle this.

LwnmwrMan22
03-28-2007, 09:39 AM
Man, after reading this thread and some of the implications (impact zones, don't forget soil compaction on the athletic fields requiring monthly aeration) and the pita complications aspect of it all, I'd either have to bid at least 3 times the going rates or have a huge Lco with more employees standing around than I knew what to do with... That's it, either bid sky high as a solo to ensure all bases are somehow covered and pray heavily that they are, or see it as that place that no matter what happens will keep all your help busy anytime you need to find something for them to do.

Because there just ain't no way, I done been through this lesson a few times, the board hires (or whoever) and next thing you know you've got this joe and that bob all demanding quality time to speak to you over this and that and the other, to them it may seem important and for a while it used to excite me to play the Interior Decorator's version of a lawnfaggot, but nowadays I don't care much for it anymore... It's just like when a customer wants some mulch and here's the price and all of a sudden I find myself walking and talking about this handful over here and that over there and oh you know this here ackandrealotitis plant it is very delicate and oh yes bunch of puckering up kissy-kissy firly fanz bs omg it ain't like we're purchasing a million dollar automobile...

Guess I just lack the tolerance for it, but I really do think you need employee's to take on contracts, that much I'm fairly convinced of, and more is better, a permanent business location other than a residential house likely wouldn't hurt, that kind of Lco can handle this.

The fields we mow only get aerated once / year by the grounds people at the school. The school is also responsible for all field striping / grooming. We are there to cut grass and only cut grass.

Also, no one demands my time. The varsity softball field is on low land, basically swamp land. The coach puts a note on the gate if he doesn't want us to mow it, because the ground is soft. He doesn't realize that when he's bagging with his John Deere tractor, that leaves no fewer spots in the turf than when I mow with the zero turn with 24x12x12 tires, but that's his perogative, and we get paid no less, so we let him do what he thinks should be done.

I've operated out of the same house for the 19 years of my business. I have 10 acres, with a 20x40 poleshed that my dad and I built about 25 years ago, which isn't enough room to hold all of my equipment.

Why would operating out of a dedicated shop be any different than operating out of a house?? It's not like the guys are sleeping over at night??