Like businesses, governments purchase lots of things: supplies, equipment, services – everything from copy paper, to cleaning products, to police cars. Unlike businesses, however, local governments must follow State rules that require us to accept the lowest responsible bid for any particular item or contract. That rule is aimed at preventing abuses, and most of the time, it makes sense. But a lowest-responsible-bid rule can also work against taxpayers, by making it difficult for purchasers to consider durability, quality, cost of maintenance, and other factors that determine long-term value. Sometimes, what looks like a low bid, may actually cost us more.
So it is good news that the State recently enacted legislation allowing municipalities to undertake a more comprehensive cost-benefit analysis when making purchases. The City Council here in New Rochelle is likely to follow suit this month. Going forward, our staff will be able to choose products and services on the basis of best-value, which should save us money over time.