Support Local Business Year-Round
The Press-Citizen “our view” of 11/29/14 pertaining to supporting local businesses this holiday season was spot on. Only it should not be limited to one day out of the year or to just the private sector. The public sector should recognize the importance of local businesses and the significant contributions they make to our community besides property and sales taxes. Many of our local businesses are huge supporters of our schools and local charities. One example that comes to mind is the Iowa City Community School District’s proclivity to purchase vehicles from Des Moines, Ankeny, Waukee and other areas outside the District. Many times those vendors beat our local merchants by just a few hundred dollars without considering the thousands that our local businesses give to the School District for different fundraisers such as athletics, band uniforms, Run for the Schools, etc. As the District attempts to pinch every penny, they should have the ability which the private sector has to work the best deal possible. They should have the ability to give local vendors the opportunity to meet or beat outside vendor prices as any private citizen or conscientious consumer would. This will require State legislation so that District officials can negotiate on behalf of the District fiduciarily as well as what’s best for our local communities. This does not mean that we should be blind to the bottom line; when we look at how the ICCSD awards service contracts, they more frequently award contracts to local vendors. The only problem is that there is no specific bidding procedure for service contracts be it State Code or Board policy. In these cases the projects are awarded not based on bids or quotes but on preference. When millions of dollars are awarded arbitrarily without competitive bidding, we will never know how much money could have been saved. In one example where quotes were requested for the design of Liberty High School, the District recognized huge savings. And by the way, it was not a local vendor who was awarded the project; but the District saved money by entertaining multiple quotes.
Instead of looking to Des Moines for more school funding, School officials and Board members should lobby our legislators to give them the tools to negotiate service contracts and to purchase materials which not only meets our fiduciary responsibilities but also strengthens our local communities.