One state delegate from Baltimore County said he believes the county school board is responsible for ensuring taxpayers are getting the best deal when it comes to contracting school repairs.
Del. Dan Morhaim, a Democrat who is considered an expert on government procurement issues, made his comments after watching a report about possible overspending on roof repairs. That story aired on WBAL TV.
In that story, reporter David Collins estimated that county taxpayers may have overspent by $30 million on roof repairs between 2005 and 2010 because the system uses a consortium rather than bidding out each project.
"Consortium buying can work to save money in many cases, especially when it comes to purchasing commodities," Morhaim wrote. "It's up the entity that's doing the buying to be sure it is getting the best deal when buying through a consortium because there may be better deals elsewhere. That takes continued vigilance and attention to detail. Each procurement is different, and also what works at one point in time may not work the next time."
Morhaim represents a district that includes Owings Mills, Pikesville and part of Timonium.
Morhaim said all of the facts regarding the WBAL story are difficult to discern because it's based on a conflict between competitors seeking schools system contracts.
"But it's ultimately the school board's responsibility to be sure it's getting the best price and value on purchases, whether buying pencils, volleyballs, or roofs," Morhaim wrote.
Morhaim attempted to make the county schools system's procurement process part of the summer study that recently wrapped up three public hearings on how the 12-member school board should be selected.
His suggestions were amended into the bill but then later removed before a final vote.
"Unfortunately, that didn't happen," said Morhaim, whose amendment was pulled from the bill by the county delegation before a final vote.
"After all, while procurement may not be an easy issue, it does involve millions and millions of dollars, and can be more relevant to school function than other issues that get far more attention," wrote Morhaim.