What’s Up with All These Federal Procurement Requirements for School Districts Anyway?
By Bill Munch, NIGP-CPP, CPPO, CPPB
*This article was previously published in The EDGE magazine, an AASBO publication.
Before I start, I just wanted to briefly say how humbled I am to have been fortunate enough to be elected Vendor Representative on the AASBO Board. I could not have been successful with the support of Valley Schools, the vendor and school district community and AASBO itself. I am grateful to each and every one of you. There is no single organization that has done more to further my public procurement career than AASBO.
While I may have a lot on my plate, I pledge to make the Vendor Representative role my number one priority as I embark on my 11th year on the AASBO Board. AASBO members and its vendors deserve nothing less. Collaboration and transparency will be the cornerstone of my tenure on the board. Thank you again for the faith you have instilled in me. I will not let the vendors down.
Ok, now to the issue at hand. This little article should not be considered legal advice, but merely best practice recommendation based on our School District Procurement Rules and my 30 plus years of experience as a certified public procurement professional working with vendors both locally and nationally.
As I begin my 25th year authoring articles for the AASBO Edge, be aware that this article and future articles will be written with a slant toward the vendors and best practices for understanding the world of Arizona School District Procurement. The school districts as always will continue to benefit from the information. Strong vendors build strong schools, which will benefit the children of Arizona.
Vendors, you may have noticed there has been a bit more hoopla lately regarding purchasing using federal dollars. The rules have not substantially changed, but the amount of federal purchasing that is happening has increased, and hence the hoopla. Federal funds given to local school districts in the form of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds have substantially increased federal spending in a handful of districts.
Now there are a number of districts that are using ESSER funds for payroll and so the increase in federal spending for goods and services in those districts is less. However, I worked with one school district in June doing a boatload of buying using federal dollars. The District needed to stay compliant with federal spending requirements that are not always fun.
As vendors, there are some general things about federally purchasing that you should have a basic understanding of. For formal solicitations and cooperative contracts, School Districts must include a myriad of federal contract clauses if any federal dollars are anticipated to be used. If the District wants to use federal dollars for any cooperative contract purchase, that myriad of federal contact clauses must be included in the contract and cost must be the number one evaluation factor in the original solicitation.
When making purchases below $100,000 using federal dollars, School Districts must include a portion of the federal clauses required for formal purchases in all contracts below $100,000. However, when using a cooperative contract or District formal bid for purchases below $100,000, the District must include the myriad of federal clauses mentioned in the previous paragraph and cost must be the number one evaluation factor. Simply by utilizing a cooperative contract, the school district makes that informal purchase formal and ALL the federal requirements kick in.
Because of the increase in the use of federal dollars, many school districts are implementing best practice strategies to comply with the stringent federal requirements. On multi-term contracts, many times the District will not know if federal dollars will be used during the term of the contract. Therefore, districts are putting federal language in nearly every multi-term contract. Cooperatives like 1GPA and Mohave are including federal language in nearly if not ALL procurements since the co-op has no way of knowing whether the district will use federal dollars on a given purchase.
I could bog you down with many more specifics of the federal procurement requirements, but rather I suggest that the concepts above will give you a foundation of understanding when school districts require you to acknowledge these federal contact clauses or ask if your cooperative contract is federally compliant. If you are not sure about the federal compliance status of your cooperative contract, ask the cooperative for clarification.
It is my sincere hope this little article sheds some light on federal procurement compliance for school districts.
As always, I encourage vendors and school districts alike to reach out to me with their procurement questions and issues. Feel free to try to “Stump the Munch”! I am here to help and truly believe that strong vendors help us make strong school districts.
Until next time, may all your procurement dreams come true and may the force of procurement be with you!
Bill Munch, NIGP-CPP, CPPO, CPPB is the Procurement Compliance and Training Officer for Valley Schools Management Group and serves as the Vendor Representative0 on the AASBO Board of Directors. He is the recipient of the 2020 AZNIGP RJD Procurement Mentor Award, the 2018 AASBO Bill Lovett Award and the 2016 NIGP National Purchasing Manager of the Year. He provides consultation on public procurement matters for vendor and school districts in the state of Arizona and across the country. He may be reached at: [email protected].