July 16, 2024

The Needham Channel

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School Bill Eases Purchasing Restrictions

The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a bill to help with school operational efficiency.

reported by Yuxiao Yuan
A school operational efficiency bill initiated by Needham district leaders and filed by Representative Denise Garlick was signed into law in late August. The bill amends the state’s procurement law for public schools, raising the price threshold for requiring a sealed bidding process from $50.000 to $100,000. Purchases under a hundred thousand dollars but over ten thousand dollars will still require quotations from at least three contractors.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Anne Gulati states, “We want to follow those laws. We don’t want fraud or any kind of malfeasance in our purchasing, but what we’re saying is that, at low dollar purchase amounts, we’d like to do a cost-benefit analysis for the amount of time that it takes, and essential cost of procuring something, versus the value of what you’re buying. And we’re basically just saying that it with inflation, that we’re a little out of balance. Issuing a bid is a little bit of a time and sometimes labor-intensive process, so it allows us to use more efficient quote means. It does require that we obtain competitive quotations, but those are more efficient, sometimes, than issuing bids.”

The new law also allows schools to prepay for multi-year online subscriptions and software services. Says Gulati, “Now, in the school department, we use a lot of subscription services for curriculum and different things, and online apps and online services and sometimes the way that vendors purchase or price those things is that you you can get a better deal if you’re able to buy a two or a three year subscription to something, rather than if you had to buy something on an annual basis. And it was actually costing us kind of a lot of money to actually buy things on an annual basis and very short-term subscriptions.”

Another improvement is to offer school districts the option of establishing an enterprise fund for transportation services. An enterprise fund is usually set up for utilities where revenues and expenditures are segregated into a self-supporting financing account. “Part of the law addressed trying to expedite the process for licensing drivers,”explains Gulati. “Needham has a shortage of drivers like every other school district in the United States, so we’re just trying to make sure that people who want to be drivers can get can get licensed efficiently and quickly.”

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