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Schumer: Federal Purchasing Agreements Are a Win for Local School Districts

‘Means Easier, More Affordable Access to Critical Education Tools’

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer has called on the federal General Services Administration (GSA) to meet with Long Island school districts and administrators and Nassau and Suffolk BOCES to identify major cost-saving opportunities on information technology (IT) purchases that could potentially save Long Island residents hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes. Last month, as part of the property tax cap legislation passed by the New York State Legislature, a legal restriction that prevented New York State school districts from purchasing information and telecommunication technology through the GSA’s Federal Supply program was lifted, unlocking the door for hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. The GSA is tasked with overseeing the business of the U.S. federal government. GSA’s acquisition solutions supplies federal purchasers with cost-effective high quality products and services from commercial vendors.

With this new legal authority, superintendents of local school districts are now permitted to work directly with the federal GSA to purchase cutting edge classroom technology, ultimately working to further hold down property taxes in the process. In order to ensure that local school districts have the ability to leverage this new purchasing authority to its greatest potential, Schumer, in a letter to GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, asked the agency to send representatives to Long Island to meet with school district superintendents and local officials and direct them on how to access the technology offered through this new authority.

“Now that local school districts are freed from the shackles that kept them from reaching out to the GSA for cost savings, it is imperative the agency immediately meet with local officials so that these savings can be released quickly and the savings can be passed on to local property taxpayers,” said Schumer.

The E-Government Act, which passed the U.S. Congress in 2002, authorized states, municipalities, and local school districts to engage in a process called Cooperative Purchasing, which allows for the Administrator of General Services to provide access to certain items offered through the GSA’s Federal Supply Schedule 70. By making purchases through Schedule 70, state and local units of government can receive the same cost savings and streamlined purchasing processes as Federal agencies. For local school districts, this means easier and more affordable access to critical education tools like IT wireless equipment, software licenses, professional IT services, and classroom training.

In the last decade, school districts in many states have taken advantage of cost savings through cooperative purchasing and Schedule 70. Schumer has asked the Long Island BOCES program to assist in this effort, as the Cooperative is an instrumental agency in helping school districts to cost-share services and buy materials from bulk contracts. In a preliminary analysis conducted by Nassau BOCES at Schumer’s request, the agency found immediate examples of potential cost savings. Those examples range from a $50 savings on each Dell Latitude laptop to over $1500 in savings on a Cisco Catalyst.

In New York State, however, school districts did not have the legal authority to purchase classroom technology through federal cooperative purchasing agreements and GSA Schedule 70 because of NYS competitive bidding laws, Schumer stated. Because of these restrictions, local school districts have never had the opportunity to purchase under Schedule 70. Under a provision in the recently passed tax cap legislation, school districts like those on Long Island now have that opportunity.

According to GSA, the Schedules Program offers key money-saving options for participants. They include:

• Volume Pricing - GSA negotiates competitive contracts with commercial partners that offer discounts equal to or better than those provided to their best commercial customers.

• Spot Discounts - Schedule contractors may lower contract prices, offer spot discounts, pass along long-term price reductions and/or provide additional concessions.

• Price Reductions - Seeking additional price reductions and concessions allows the customer to achieve improved prices and delivery terms.

Schumer wants the GSA to plan a series of forums to educate school administrators on how to get the most from the Schedule 70 program, which could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes.