As a public school district in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the North Pocono School District has to meet certain requirements when purchasing goods and services. Certain goods and services can be purchased directly from any vendor at any price at any time. These include textbooks and software, professional technical services, and legal services.
Most other goods and services, if they exceed certain price thresholds, require soliciting multiple quotations, soliciting bids, or utilizing a pre-bid purchasing contract. These thresholds are set annually by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) based on and published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. To view the most recent thresholds, refer to the Pennsylvania Bulletin for the most recent "Consumer Price Index Adjustment of Base Amounts on Bids" (please note that this link takes you to a site outside of the North Pocono website; the North Pocono School District is not responsible for the content of this site).
Calendar Year 2022 Price Thresholds
$0.00 - $11,799.99: No quotations or bids required
$11,800.00 - $21,899.99: Quotations from at least three vendors required for purchase unless using a pre-bid contract
$21,900.00 and over: Formal bidding required for purchase unless using a pre-bid contract
The process of soliciting bids begins with the development of a document known as a request for proposals (RFP). After the development of this document, action is taken by the Board of Education to advertise the request, which not only formalizes the RFP, but also sets a deadline for the receipt of responses and a date, time, and location for the public opening of responses. These responses are also known as "bids." Bids are submitted in a sealed envelope and remain unopened until the date and time of the public opening. If the district elects to accept a bid and move forward with the project, they must select the response from the "lowest responsible bidder." This may be different, of course, from the lowest bidder. The determination of a bidder's responsibility is complex, but usually involves past experiences with the district and references from past clients.
The advertising and opening of bids does not obligate the district to proceed with the project; in fact, they may elect to reject all bids. Bidding projects and purchases would seem, at first, designed to ensure that the district gets the best price available. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are many occasions that advertised retail prices are significantly lower than the prices of the lowest bid, but the price threshold for the purchase or project mandates the use of the bid. This would seem to indicate that the legislative point of bidding is to ensure the spending of taxpayer dollars with many vendors, as opposed to the lowest, most cost-effective vendors.
Pre-bid Purchasing Contracts
Pre-bid purchasing contracts (PBPCs) are contracts that have been bid on behalf of a consortium of entities. The contracts usually encompass a wide range of products and may be used by any member of the consortium to make purchases. These offer a number of advantages for the district and taxpayers.
- PBPCs do not require the labor-intensive and error-prone process of developing an RFP at the district level.
- For the district, PBPCs do not require the time-intensive and costly processes of advertising for bids, publicly opening bids, developing a new contract, legally reviewing the contract, and approving the contract at a public board meeting. All of that work is done by consortium at no cost to the school district.
- PBPCs allow the district to compare prices with retail prices and other contracts to ensure that the taxpayers are receiving the lowest or, at the very least, a competitive price.
Currently, the North Pocono School District makes use of a number of PBPCs. Amongst them are:
- PEPPM – The PEPPM contract is bid and managed by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit #16 in Milton, PA on behalf on school districts across Pennsylvania and, more recently, California. It includes a wide variety of computer and technology equipment at extremely competitive prices. It also includes catalog bids, where vendors can bid their entire catalog line. PEPPM maintains a website for consortium members and vendors at https://www.peppm.org (please note that this link takes you to a site outside of the North Pocono website; the North Pocono School District is not responsible for the content of this site).
- State Contracts/COSTARS – These are contracts bid by agencies of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (often the Department of General Services) and are available for use by political subdivisions, such as school districts. These bids have competitive prices and should be used when items ordered are not less expensive on another bid or contract. A full list of COSTARS contracts can found on the PA Department of General Services website (please note that this link takes you to a site outside of the North Pocono website; the North Pocono School District is not responsible for the content of this site).
- US COMMUNITIES – A nationally sponsored joint purchasing bid that allows any school district in the U.S. to participate. More information can be found at the U.S. Communities website (please note that this link takes you to a site outside of the North Pocono website; the North Pocono School District is not responsible for the content of this site).
- KPN (Keystone Purchasing Network) – A joint purchasing agreement administered through the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit with no membership fee. This agreement can be used to purchase furniture, carpeting, janitorial supplies and food service equipment at a discount. More information can be found at the KPN website (please note that this link takes you to a site outside of the North Pocono website; the North Pocono School District is not responsible for the content of this site).
Larger purchases that do not reach the threshold requiring bidding require a minimum of three "telephonic" quotations. The particular law that governs school district purchasing predated much of modern technology. At the time, calling three vendors and receiving a price would have been state of the art. Since that time, the practice has graduated from telephone calls to faxed quotations to email quotations and now to live, web-based quotations.