County Executive’s Corner: Getting Best Value for Rockland’s Taxpayers

 

By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

Every month, Rockland County spends $12,000 on cell phones – a vital tool in this age of instant communication.

It’s a necessary cost, but we very easily could be paying $2,000 less for the same service every month. That would save $24,000 a year of your money.

Now imagine multiplying that savings on all the goods and services that the County buys. We’re talking real savings.

For a long time I have been pushing for a change in the way we buy services to reflect Best Value Procurement. The topic is again before the Rockland County Legislature and I am again asking them to approve this change.

Here’s why.

When we go shopping for ourselves or our family, we often learn through sad experience that cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better.

The same holds true when local governments purchase equipment, supplies and services. Low bids don’t always mean the best value.

We need to look at other factors like energy consumption, operating costs, warranty period, delivery timeframe, and reliability and reputation of the supplier as part of the procurement process.

In 2012 – after years of lobbying by local governments – the New York State Legislature amended General Municipal Law to allow local governments to pass a local law authorizing Best Value procurement.

The legislation requires each county to pass a local law to authorize the award of bids by best value rather than low bid. For Rockland County, that means it’s up to the Legislature.

The use of the best value awards will not replace low bid awards. But it will give us the ability to consider other factors besides cost when awarding competitively bid contracts.

It also provides two important benefits that can assist local businesses and provide greater efficiently and lower prices to the County.

The first is allowing the County to purchase from National Cooperative Contracts that have also been awarded by best value. Currently the County cannot purchase equipment, supplies and services, over the statutory bid limit, from National Cooperative Contracts.

Everyone understands the theory behind these state contracts. The state, which has greater purchasing power, negotiates contracts and local governments like Rockland are allowed to purchase at state prices.

The national cooperatives work in a similar way but they combine the purchasing power of multiple states to negotiate the best pricing for governments across the country.

That is where our cell phone costs come in. We could get the same service from the same company for $24,000 a year less if the contract was through a national cooperative.

Why shouldn’t we take that opportunity?

The second benefit allows the County to consider a bidder’s status as a Minority or Woman Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) when determining contract awards. Most MWBE firms are also small local businesses, so increasing contract awards to these companies helps the local economy.

Why shouldn’t we spend the tax dollars of Rockland County residents to help businesses owned by local merchants and businesses?

No reason at all.

There is much talk in political circles about correcting the biases and prejudices of the past. We all know that talk is cheap – action is what counts.

My administration has taken tangible action by hiring talented women to leadership positions in county government as well as establishing the Women’s Initiative to make sure that all women in Rockland County have the tools they need to succeed.

We have also brought on board highly qualified leaders from a diversity of ethnic and racial groups – more action.

Now we need action from the Legislature, our partners in government.

The bottom line is that the County’s procurement professionals need all the tools available to them to make the most efficient and cost-effective purchases.

I encourage my partners in the County Legislature to pass the required local law authorizing best value procurements. This move will increase contracts awarded to MWBE firms and provide for more efficient procurement processes using national cooperative contracts.

And, most importantly, it will save you money.