Rhinelander school board committee recommends change in purchasing policy
Also discusses public use of facilities, alcohol consumption
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
The Operations and Strategic Planning Committee of the School District of Rhinelander board of education July 11 sent a resolution to revise the district’s purchasing policy to the full board. The policy has been discussed at recent meetings following an inquiry by committee member David Holperin, who asked about the use of online shopping and purchasing used items to potentially save the district money.
The administration was asked to survey other school districts about their purchasing policies. None of the districts reported an online purchasing component to the policy and nearly everyone had a higher threshold than Rhinelander’s current $10,000 maximum before seeking purchase approval from the board.
Holperin responded to Superintendent Kelli Jacobi’s request to forward policy ideas to her. The idea, he said, was to allow administrators to “use their good judgment” to save the district money.
“David made some recommendations,” Jacobi said. “And we basically took his ideas and incorporated them into the existing policy.”
Those recommendations were to include a provision for purchasing new or used items that will be needed in the future from any source that would afford the best overall value, and to allow Administration to purchase any item, excluding a capital project or services, up to $25,000 at their discretion, as long as the board is aware of the need.
In the purchasing policy draft revision, competitive bids or quotes would continue to be “solicited in connection with all purchasing whenever possible,” awarding the purchase order to the lowest cost supplier meeting the bid requirements. Added would be “items (either new or used) can be purchased from any source that would provide the District the opportunity to procure those items that will be needed in the future at whatever the best overall value can be found in the marketplace, as determined at the discretion of the administration.”
Additionally, the administration would be allowed to make purchases for “materials, equipment, services or supplies” costing less than $25,000 from one supplier and all capital projects contracts involving less than $25,000 without board approval. That number would be increased from the current $10,000.
Also on the committee’s agenda Monday was a request to consider allowing alcohol to be served on school property during use by the public for adults-only events. Superintendent Kelli Jacobi told the committee she and others have been approached many times by members of the public about renting school facilities for events such a class reunions, anniversaries and weddings. School policies currently prohibits the use of intoxicants and drugs on school property and directs that no alcoholic beverage or controlled substance be allowed during any function sponsored by the district or at any function occurring on school property. Jacobi said that before collecting information or moving forward she would want direction from the committee or the full board.
Committee chair Mike Roberts said he thought it would be worthwhile exploring costs involved and what other districts do. Committee member Dennis O’Brien said it is a “wonderful idea.”
Stating he is “dead set against it,” David Holperin told Jacobi the district would be opening itself up to new legal liabilities and that because local business owners are taxpayers they would see this as competition and be against it.
O’Brien argued those fees could be built in to the rental cost. Roberts said that because they are “education first,” he could see that people might have a problem with it; however he reiterated his belief that the idea is worth further consideration.
Jacobi was directed to look into the topic further and bring it back to the committee at a future meeting. The regular full school board meeting is Monday, July 18.