This week, a local firm lost a sale to Great Bend USD 428 when the school district went with a lower bidder.
Contract Paper Group in Uniontown, Ohio, bid $21,154.40, which was $928.80 (about 4.4 percent) less than the bid from Office Products Inc. of Great Bend’s proposed $22,083.20. Following the district policy, the low bidder was chosen because the expenditure was for more than $20,000 and there was more than 1 percent difference ($211.54 in this case).
If the bids had been taken by Barton Community College, it would have been a different story. BCC policy states, “No purchase shall be made except on the basis of quality, cost, and service. Preference shall be given to local vendors who can provide like quality products and services, and who meet bid specifications within 5 percent.” On the other hand, the bid would have been awarded by administrators, because only bids over $50,000 require board approval at the college.
Administrators at the school district and the college have policies to follow when it comes to large expenditures. Both entities seek multiple bids or quotes when required and are expected to award the bids without the influence of kickbacks or cronyism.
It isn’t unusual for governing bodies to consider the benefits of “buying local.” If elected officials were only interested in the lowest possible price, they would expand the use of state-wide contracts made available each year by the State of Kansas. Firms submit bids for everything from arts and crafts supplies to X-ray equipment, but elected council members, board members, commissioners and trustees aren’t always seeking the “state bid,” even though it’s available to them.
On the other hand, if a governing body were to offer a ridiculously unfair local advantage — say 20 percent — it would be wasting taxpayers’ dollars and eventually it would stop receiving bids from non-local vendors at all.
Recently, the BCC Board of Trustees revisited its bidding policy and procedures, and perhaps Great Bend’s school board should do the same. The board may or may not want to ease its 1 percent tolerance to 2 or even 5 percent. But for now, the USD 428 board did the right thing by following its own policy. Nothing could be more fair.