AISD seeks to improve district construction program with changes to purchasing, bidding policies

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On Monday night Austin ISD trustees discussed making a few policy amendments in an effort to improve the construction program and address some of the frustrations that some of the district’s vendors are experiencing.

As the district prepares for a potential bond season, amendments to these policies could help streamline the construction process, board members said.

AISD Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley Johnson said the provisions include delegating emergency purchases to the superintendent and enhancing the employee conflict of interest provisions.

Proposed changes include:

• The board delegates to the superintendent authority for approving emergency purchases and repairs. Any purchases or repairs made this way will be presented to the board at the next meeting, the proposed amendment states.

• Superintendent Paul Cruz is authorized to approve contracts of up to $100,000. Anything above that requires board approval. The amended policy also recommends the board approve change orders valued at or above $100,000 or 10 percent of the total project cost, Johnson said.

• Trustee Cindy Anderson asked if there was a way to increase the superintendent’s purchasing limit. She felt that $100,000 was too low considering all the contracts the board approves and wondered if that would help resolve some of the delays. Johnson said she was not sure if there was a maximum on how much the superintendent was authorized, but in looking at surrounding school districts in the state, $100,000 was standard.

• As part of the proposed amendments, the district will not purchase goods or services from employees or immediate family members without prior approval from the superintendent. Provisions also prohibit district employees from exercising discretion in the selection process if they are also employed by the vendor.

• Contractors in the bidding process will now be further vetted and selected under a number of provisions, including their experience record and evaluation of the proper equipment and financial resources needed to adequately complete the project.

Board members are expected to vote on the amended policy changes at a later meeting.

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