In an effort to save money, the Sag Harbor School district, backed by superintendent Dr. John Gratto, has pushed other districts on the East End to band together to get cheaper rates for major high priority items within the school districts. The Sag Harbor School District approved a resolution at their last board of education meeting to join the South Shore Purchasing Consortium, which is the name for the group of schools that Gratto hopes will join together to seek out better pricing on certain items needed for the districts.
In mid-September, Gratto emailed superintendents of nine area schools to ask for a meeting where they could discuss ideas about how schools could work together to purchase goods or services at a lower cost, with the intent on spending more money on education and less on overhead.
On September 23, that meeting was held amongst business officials and superintendents from Amagansett, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Hampton Bays, Montauk, Shelter Island, Southampton, Tuckahoe and Springs.
Gratto said in that email that it may be more cost-effective if these schools formed a consortium to get lower prices than the New York State bid, or the Suffolk County bid because vendors who would deliver to the South Fork would have lower transportation costs compared with those on the western side of Suffolk County. Gratto also said he thought he may attract some more local bidders if the schools limited the geographic area of the contract.
Gratto’s intent was to have each business official coordinate the cooperative bidding for one high-priority item. For example, the Sag Harbor School District’s Business Manager, Len Bernard will be looking into paper products while the Hampton Bays School District will explore what rates the consortium might be able to secure for oil.
“On just oil, paper and fuel if we had a 10 percent reduction, we could save $10,000,” and that, according to Gratto, is a conservative figure.
“There is no downside for the other districts,” Gratto said about joining the consortium.
Superintendent for the Hampton Bays School District, Joanne Loewenthal said that she believes this is a great concept. Her business administrator Larry Luce is working on fuel oil to see what prices he may be able to get for the South Fork schools.
Superintendent of the East Hampton School district, Raymond Gualtieri, said his district might be interested in the idea. He said that if cheaper prices on such things like fuel oil could be obtained, the district would be likely to get involved. The East Hampton School District’s Business Administrator Isabel Madison said that no one in her district was assigned a specific high-priority item, but when the data is received and if it beats other pricing available, East Hampton will most likely buy through that.
Phil Kenter, the Business Administrator of the Bridgehampton School District, said that he believes that conceptually the consortium is a good idea, but he wouldn’t want to see the efforts of BOCES duplicated.
Gary Bixhorn superintendent for BOCES said that Eastern Suffolk BOCES has been doing cooperative purchasing since 1981.
“We have a pretty extensive cooperative program, we bid on a large number of items and a number of districts in Suffolk County participate in that program,” Bixhorn said on Wednesday. He said that BOCES always tries to encourage cooperation and shared services and there is a tremendous focus on this right now because of the financial constraints the country is feeling as a whole, which has reflected back to the schools.
According to Bixhorn, BOCES uses an e-procurement system, an electronic purchasing system, which will allow a district to search for the best pricing for a particular supply, material or service.
Bixhorn said that next week his group will meet in Bridgehampton to talk to the districts in the consortium to make sure that the schools are aware of the available resources and ensure that they are taking advantage of the opportunities that are out there.
But Bixhorn said, “If we think there is another way to do it – we are interested in working with the other districts to get better rates.”