Would you support requiring the town to "shop local" if it meant paying higher taxes?
All else being equal, do you think the town should spend more for its purchases in order to buy from a Yorktown business?
Should the board’s priority be looking after the welfare of its taxpayers or the welfare of local businesses? Not all local businesses are local taxpayers.
The “shop local” issue will come to a head at the April 17 town board meeting when the Board votes to award a bid for laboratory testing services for the sewage treatment plant. (The Board was ready to authorize a contract with a Yorktown laboratory three weeks ago that would have cost the Town about $25,000 until a staff member reminded Board members that according to the Town’s procurement policy, service contracts in excess of $10,000 had to be competitively bid.)
Two bids were received: $17,880 from a Newburgh laboratory, and $24,476 from the Yorktown laboratory. Both vendors have the required certifications to perform the test and both bids met all the specs, but the Yorktown vendor’s price was 27% more.
Based on the discussion at last Tuesday’s work session, it appears that some Board members may support awarding the bid to the Yorktown laboratory, despite the higher price and despite the fact that state law and the Town’s procurement policy require the bid be awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder.” (According to the town engineer, the low bidder has done work for the town in the past and has always performed satisfactorily.)
It remains to be seen what Tuesday’s vote will be.
In the meantime, during the same work session meeting, Supervisor Grace announced his intention to propose a new local law that would allow the Town to award bids to Yorktown vendors, regardless of price. The law, known as a “best value law” takes advantage of a 2012 change in state law that allows municipalities greater flexibility in awarding bids.
While the text of the local law hasn’t been drafted yet, Supervisor Grace said that the law would have to include criteria for what constituted “best value”-- but -- the only criteria he mentioned was the location of the vendor.
According to the state’s Finance Law, “best value” means “the basis for awarding contracts for services to the offer-er which optimizes quality, cost and efficiency (emphasis added), among responsive and responsible offers…such basis shall reflect wherever possible, objective and quantifiable analysis.”
Absent from the state’s definition of “best value” is “location.”
It was also not clear at the work session discussion whether the proposed “best value law” will include purchases that fall under the bid threshold. The Town’s procurement policy requires three written quotes for purchases of goods and services over $1,000 and under $10,000, and three written quotes for public works projects between $5,000 and $20,000. Supervisor Grace appeared to imply that the Town had more flexibility in selecting a local vendor when quotes were used.
On a practical level, what’s the difference between “lowest responsible” and “best value”? And why should taxpayers be concerned about a possible change in how Yorktown spends our tax dollars?
Here’s a hypothetical purchase:
A Yorktown vendor charges $2,000 for a widget, there’s no shipping charge, and the item can be picked up the same day it’s ordered by a town employee. A White Plains vendor charges $1,900 for the exact same widget, but adds on a $75 delivery charge and the item may not delivered until later in the week. But if the town needs it sooner, an employee can spend two hours traveling to White Plains to pick it up. When the two quotes are compared, clearly, the Yorktown vendor is offering the best value, both in terms of price and efficiency.
But change the scenario. The two prices remain the same, but this time the White Plains price includes free shipping and the product can be delivered to Yorktown when the department needs it.
Now what constitutes best value? Should Yorktown taxpayers pay $100 more for the product?
Of course, a $100 savings on a single item in a $23 million budget is insignificant. The issue is how much could the town save CUMULATIVELY if it consistently selected vendors with the best overall price and service, regardless of where the vendors were located? Remember, every $150,000 the town has to raise in taxes means a 1% increase in our tax rate.
When it comes to spending your money, how do you think the Town Board should define “best value”?