AASA School Solutions

New Answer for Old Purchasing Problem

by DUFF ERHOLTZ

I am a national sales manager, but the odd thing about my title is that I don’t have a single thing I can sell you. In fact, I don’t even need to convince you to be a member of the National Joint Powers Alliance because you already are.

As an AASA member, you are part of an alliance that has grown to 30,000 members. It’s free, obligates you to nothing and might be the best opportunity you never knew about.

Duff ErholtzDuff Erholtz


So why have we been such a secret? I can assure you we aren’t trying to avoid attention, but in a world where we’ve been taught “you get what you pay for,” explaining how something free could have such tremendous value is a huge challenge. Not only is your membership free, but it affords you the most valuable tool in purchasing — choice.

Established in 1978 as a Minnesota education cooperative, the National Joint Powers Alliance has grown to serve all 50 states as a municipal contracting agency and holds more than 50 competitively bid contracts from which a school district can choose.

Expanding Capacity
You live with diminishing school budgets, declining enrollment in some geographical places, rising salaries, increasing cost of goods, time pressures, security issues and the like. Most of you are being asked to do more with less. NJPA’s main objective is to serve its members, empowering them to do more with more. More when time is short, more when service matters, more when you have a small order, more when your state contract changes, more for a stretched procurement staff, more inventory flexibility, more without the middleperson, and more when funding is a challenge.

No time for bids. A school district in Ohio thanked me for helping procure cafeteria tables. They didn’t have enough time left in the fiscal year to do their own bid but needed the product and wanted it in 14 days.

Brand preference. The Baltimore City Public Schools needed to replace its entire fleet of copying machines — a $2.1 million project that included in excess of 400 machines. With NJPA, the district could choose the brand carried on our contract and the service provided by that dealer.

Small orders. The little guy wins. Small school districts across the country benefit with access to nationally leveraged pricing on even the smallest of orders, pricing that previously was out of reach for “onesie, twosie” needs.

State contract changes. A rural Idaho school district was able to continue doing business with its existing furniture vendor of choice, even after the vendor was not included on the state contract.

Staff stretched. Almost every school district is asking more of its procurement department — green initiatives, stimulus opportunities, funding reductions, etc. NJPA contracts eliminate the need to duplicate the bidding process, freeing up staff time to meet the increasing demands.

Eliminate the middleperson. A central Minnesota school district saved more than $400,000 on a school renovation project by using our “easy indefinite quantity construction” contract. The original low bid received was for $1.2 million. Through NJPA, the district finished the project with a job order contracting for $800,000.

Lease options. A Florida school district did not have the budget to afford necessary repairs for six of its school roofs. Fixed asset leasing allowed the district to make the monthly payment from both the capital and general funds.

Clear Understanding
Your school district could be the next beneficiary of our solutions. It requires a willingness to look at a new way to solve old problems and the ability to implement change. NJPA’s staff has extensive experience in the field of education administration. Our executive director, a 29-year member of AASA, is a former superintendent, principal and high school teacher who provides the organization with a clear understanding of the growing needs and challenges in K-12 education.

We are public employees providing purchasing solutions for other public agencies. World-class vendors, nationally leveraged contract pricing and quality solutions are only of value if people are aware of them. Start with one of your own schools. We do not claim to be “the only,” “the ultimate” or “the end all.” We are a choice that school districts turn to as they are being asked to do more with less.

Duff Erholtz is national sales manager of the National Joint Powers Alliance in Staples, Minn. E-mail: Duff.Erholtz@njpacoop.org


AASA School Solutions Partners
Seven firms make up the AASA School Solutions Center, created in January 2009:

•  Chapman Kellyconducts dependent eligibility audits for private and public employers.

•  FARS,
an electronic payment solution company, guarantees the face value of all child nutrition/food service checks that are returned from the district’s bank.

•  MedExpert
provides medical issues management services for self-insured school districts.

•  National Joint Powers Alliance®
is a municipal contracting agency providing purchasing power for school districts nationwide. NJPA issues the RFP and awards the vendor based on competitive bidding.

•  Optimum Expense Recovery and Consulting,
a cost-recovery company, audits expenditures, such as utility, credit cards and telephone, to identify lowest rates and best services.

•  Paetec
is a telecommunications company that serves business class customers in most of the top 100 metropolitan areas.

•  Tutor.com
is the world’s largest one-on-one online tutoring company.