Allow School Districts to Post Requests for Proposals on the World Wide Web
Chapter 44 of the Texas Education Code requires school districts to advertise requests for proposals (RFPs) and other bidding instruments worth more than $25,000 annually in a local newspaper once a week for at least two consecutive weeks. State and local governments, by contrast, can advertise bids on the Texas Marketplace Web site and avoid the cost of newspaper advertising. School districts can post RFPs on the Texas Marketplace, but still are required to advertise them in the newspaper as well. Removing this requirement would save scarce school resources.
Chapter 44 of the Texas Education Code requires school districts to advertise requests for proposals (RFPs) and other bidding instruments that exceed $25,000 in one-time costs or total aggregated costs over the course of one year for similar items, such as cleaning supplies or machine parts. Specifically, section 44.031(g) states:Notice of the time by when and place where the bids or proposals, or the responses to a request for qualifications, will be received and opened shall be published in the county in which the district’s central administrative office is located, once a week for at least two weeks before the deadline for receiving bids, proposals, or responses to a request for qualifications. If there is not a newspaper in that county, the advertising shall be published in a newspaper in the county nearest the county seat of the county in which the district’s central administrative office is located. In a two-step procurement process, the time and place where the second-step bids, proposals, or responses will be received are not required to be published separately.
Dallas Independent School District, for example, budgets about $20,000 annually for newspaper advertisements of its bid solicitations.
As an example, Exhibit 1 lists the bids advertised by Regional Education Service Center II, in South Texas, for its school district clients, as well as the cost of these advertisements, from September 2001 through February 2002.
Regional Education Service Center II:
RFPs Advertised in Local Newspapers and Their Cost
September 2001 through February 2002
Date Bid Newspaper Cost 09/11/01 1 Laredo Morning News $ 228.35 09/11/01 2 Corpus Christi Caller Times $ 221.54 12/06/01 3 San Antonio Express $ 610.96 12/06/01 4 Recorder Pub. Co $ 62.40 12/06/01 5 McAllen Monitor $ 184.00 12/06/01 6 Laredo Morning News $ 332.40 12/06/01 7 Corpus Christi Caller Times $ 297.38 12/06/01 8 Victoria Advocate $ 76.30 12/06/01 9 Huntsville Item $ 115.00 12/06/01 10 Valley Morning Star $ 300.00 01/31/02 11 Corpus Christi Caller Times $ 230.00 02/21/02 12 Greenville Herald Banner $ 240.00 02/21/02 13 Valley Morning Star $ 300.00 02/21/02 14 Huntsville Item $ 115.00 02/21/02 15 Victoria Advocate $ 70.00 02/21/02 16 Laredo Morning News $ 220.00 02/21/02 17 McAllen Monitor $ 130.00 02/21/02 18 Recorder Pub. Co $ 70.00 02/21/02 19 San Antonio Express $ 700.00 02/21/02 20 Corpus Christi Caller Times $ 230.00 Total Cost $ 4,733.33
Source: Regional Education Service Center II.
Region 2, then, spent more than $4,700 on 20 such ads for its clients over six months. The ads ranged in cost from a $70 to $700 and averaged $237.
The Texas Marketplace (http://esbd.tbpc.state.tx.us/1380/sagency.cfm) is an Internet-based notification board where state agencies and local governments can post solicitations, requests for information and requests for proposals. The Marketplace is maintained by the Texas Building and Procurement Commission (formerly the General Services Commission). State agencies and local governments can post on the electronic marketplace at no cost.
Since January 2001, 26 school districts have advertised bids on the Texas Marketplace. The districts ranged in size from Beckville Independent School District, with about 400 students, to Clear Creek ISD, with more than 30,000. School districts that post RFPs on the Texas Marketplace, however, still must advertise them in a local newspaper as well.
In addition to saving on advertising costs, those who post RFPs on the Texas Marketplace benefit from a large pool of potential bidders and a reduction in the printing and postage costs associated with the circulation of paper RFPs. Increasing the number of potential bidders increases overall competition, often resulting in reduced pricing for a district or agency.
Any agency or district posting an RFP or solicitation on Texas Marketplace also must post a subsequent award notice or a notice of cancellation. This is intended to preserve the openness of government activities and discourage “cronyism” in the awarding of contracts.
RecommendationState law should be amended to allow school districts to advertise requests for proposals through the Texas Marketplace Web site.
The fiscal impact would depend upon the future actions of state and local officials and cannot be determined.
Texas has 1,040 school districts. Assuming that all districts advertise five bids annually at an average cost of $237 per ad, and that the usage of newspaper ads would be reduced by half, each school district could save an average of $593 per year. All school districts would enjoy an estimated annual savings of $616,700 or $3.1 million over five years. Districts also would realize savings from lower bid prices as competition in bidding increases, but this amount cannot be estimated. Reducing advertising costs would make more money available for use in the classroom.
Tex. Educ. Code Ann. §44.031 (Vernon’s 1996).
Interview with Gene Gentry, executive director of Purchasing, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, Texas, November 12, 2002.
Interview with Janice Fuchs, purchasing supervisor, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Austin, Texas, March 11, 2002.
E-mail from Fran McDonald-Berry, Internet Services, Texas Department of Economic Development, Austin, Texas, April 17, 2002.
Interview with Antoinette Reeder, contracts specialist, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Austin, Texas, March 8, 2002.