BENNINGTON — Changes to federal school procurement regulations are causing consternation in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and across the state. The changes, titled 2 CFR Part 200, which were enacted in 2014 but had a two year grace period, require schools that receive any federal funds to document procurement transactions, regardless of the amount spent, to show that prices were compared between multiple vendors. The regulation is intended to show that federal funds are not being misused.
One of the relevant changes reads, "The non-Federal entity must maintain records sufficient to detail the history of procurement. These records will include, but are not necessarily limited to the following: rationale for the method of procurement, selection of contract type, contractor selection or rejection, and the basis for the contract price."
In light of the changes, the SVSU finance office is recommending that schools show cost comparisons between at least two, and preferably three, vendors for every purchase made. The Vermont Association of School Business Officials and the Agency of Education have been working on guidelines for how schools should adopt to the new requirements, but those guidelines are still in draft form and are not ready to be released. Renee Gordon, SVSU's business and finance manager, said that she hoped to have those guidelines within the next few weeks.
"This is impacting everybody throughout the state," said Gordon, "And everybody's doing it a little bit differently."
"I think it's cumbersome, I really do," said Bennington School District board member Jackie Prue, "I understand that we are the people who are supposed make sure that we are spending our frugally and responsibly, and I agree with that. But what's happening is, teachers, secretaries, and principals are spending a ton of time up prices, and how much are we saving? We're spending more money than we're saving."
In Woodford, principal Sandy Foster said that it was a real possibility that the added time the new purchasing regulations add will exceed the money saved. She pointed out that these regulations would apply if she wanted to purchase even a single pencil.
Both Gordon and Superintendent Jim Culkeen warned that an audit from the state would likely be occurring in the near future, and that compliance with these new regulations could be critical to keeping their federal funding. The AOE told Gordon that a state audit of the SVSU this year was "highly probable."
"We have qualified people," said Prue, "I don't think anybody's gone out and bought Cadillac computers."
Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.