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School District Purchasing and Procurement 101 - Valley Schools - Arizona nonprofit corporation

School District Purchasing and Procurement 101

We all know how to buy things … stop at the store, go to the mall, buy and repeat. What if, however, you’re purchasing on a grander scale … like for thousands of employees in a school district vs. your family of four?

Imagine routinely buying products priced at more than $100,000. Think of how you would maintain order while storing, distributing, keeping up with inventory, meeting contract obligations, all while managing compliance issues. Sounds like a tough but rewarding job … That’s exactly what the purchasing department in your school district is responsible for and more!

What is Purchasing and What is the Purchasing Department’s Role?

Through the issuance of quotes, bids, and proposals, purchasing departments pair the needs of the school district with vendors who provide the goods and services that assist the education process.

Think of the purchasing department as the liaison of sorts between vendors and your school district.

Purchasing departments maintain a wide database of vendors that can assist employees when procuring goods and services for their respective sites. They are also responsible for taking care of the goods obtained, property disposal, and monitoring service contracts among many other important responsibilities.

A crucial responsibility of the purchasing department is to ensure compliance with the Arizona procurement rules and codes when securing quotes and establishing contracts with vendors. They are governed by two specific areas: The Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.), and the Uniform Systems of Financial Records (USFR). The AAC and USFR govern the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” related to the expenditure of school district funds.

School District Procurement – What Does It Include?

  • Small Purchases – under $100,000
  • Large Purchases – over $100,000
  • Warehousing
  • Inventory Management
  • Distribution
  • Contract Administration
  • Fixed Asset Management
  • Property Disposal
  • & more!

The purchasing department is in charge of the entire lifecycle of goods and services. Of all their duties, contract administration is the one place where school districts often struggle. The bigger issue may be that there’s not a lot of information in the procurement rules on how to administer contracts, other than construction contracts. There tends to be very little training on managing services and commodities, so it’s no surprise that it’s a common weak spot.

Providing ongoing training is important, and so is adopting a proactive approach. Contracts should be monitored at all times to avoid any unforeseen problems. For example, “I didn’t get that delivery … how do we proceed with the vendor?” Or, “The tree maintenance service is no longer doing a good job, what steps do I need to take to replace them?”

It’s a team effort. If everyone in the school district does their part, it increases the time we can spend improving in other areas.

Why Educate Your Entire Staff on the Purchasing Process & Procurement Rules?

Procurement rules do not start and end with the purchasing department. In fact, the rules apply to everyone from the governing board to the school custodian.

When your entire staff is more engaged in the purchasing process, they feel more comfortable asking questions, which leads to better understanding and decision-making. It’s important for employees to understand what procurement method to use and when to use it. Once you have determined the correct process to fulfill your supply chains, everyone will be able to do our work more efficiently.

We Can Take Care of the Kids and Still Comply With the Rules

The purchasing department can sometimes get a reputation for saying ‘no’ too often. The truth is, it’s a difficult task for purchasers to balance compliance issues and budget constraints with the responsibility to provide support to their colleagues.

However, not following the rules can involve serious legal repercussions. Accurate detailing needs to be in the back of the mind of all those involved with procurement. It can be stressful, but it’s the job of the purchasing office to figure out the proper way of getting things accomplished. If we all work together, we can find a way!

Remember, we’re all on the same team with the same goal, which is creating and perpetuating the very best environment for educating children. This entails the work of many people including your faculty, staff, and a support team that keeps your school running its best.

How VSMG Can Help

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, VSMG has workshops and training available. Contact us today to request access to our latest procurement workshop!

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