Ed Management Services


Purchasing Handbook



In order to serve the district effectively, the school-purchasing official requires information, records, and forms. Depending on the size of the district, these tools may be complex or simple. Adequacy and expediency should be the test. Not the least of the aids to good purchasing is a continuous evaluation of the procurement program.

A. Purchasing Records.

  • Commodity information records should contain a description of item of equipment or supply.
  • Record of orders placed include:
    • Date of order, order number, and name of vendor.
    • Quantity, unit price, total price.
    • Record of receipt.
    • Comments as to quality, service, delivery, packing, etc.
  • Vendors' directory should include:
    • Office address and phone number of vendor.
    • Name of person to be contacted.
    • Type of supplies or equipment carried.
    • Financial rating or comments.
    • Notes on past performance.
  • Contract record for formal purchase contracts and public work contracts, over $10,000 ($20,000 effective June 22, 2010) and $20,000 ($35,000 effective November 12, 2009) respectively, should contain official data and papers on such contracts
  • Specifications record should include:
    • Description of common-use supplies.
    • Comprehensive details on equipment frequently procured with changes entered as required to keep information up to date
  • Periodic reorder calendar or tickler file should be maintained:
    • For annual items.
    • For seasonal items--example: lawn mowers, snow shovels, rock salt.
    • For special items requiring time element for delivery.
  • Follow-up record of orders should be kept:
    • On specific orders, where advisable because of importance of meeting delivery date.
    • For routine check for periodic cancellation of outdated orders or those which fail to meet conditions of order
  • Receipt of supplies and services record should be maintained for auditing purposes.
  • Inventory sheets should be filed in purchasing office if responsibility for the inventory is in purchasing office; otherwise, filed in the office most con­cerned
  • Catalog files are an important aid in the purchasing function. Catalogs should be arranged so as to be easily accessible, not only to the purchasing official, but also to all interested persons in the school organization. Catalogs should be kept current and dated on receipt. Collectively, they become a library of valuable information. A file with cross-references will assist in issuing them to interested school personnel.
  • A container record should be kept for items such as oxygen cylinders, oil and soap containers billed to the district by the vendor and returnable for credit.
  • A salvage record should be kept for disposed equipment or scrap sold.
  • 13. Data bases may be utilized in two areas applicable to the purchasing function--inventory control and account­ing. Examples of information obtained from data processing include control of minimum and maximum inventory levels, reordering, scheduling of deliveries, product information and accounts payable. The total cost of purchasing may be reduced considerably by minimizing paperwork and red tape. Holding down the cost of material acquisition is the first step toward purchasing efficiency.
    The programming devised for inventory control and/or accounting will depend on the information required by the purchasing department. Programming will vary according to the particular situation.
    Computer services are an important managerial aid in the areas of planning, analysis, record keeping, tabulating, and research. The data processing system employed should be carefully analyzed and tested before final program adoption. "Debugging" a new program and running parallel systems before accepting the new and discontinuing the old will eliminate time consuming problems when the program is set up and operational. The final results will be only as good as the raw data input in any data processing system.

B. Purchasing Forms.

  • Requisitions. In some districts a single requisition form may serve all purposes and types of requests. In other districts, depending on size and variety of activities, several different special purpose requisition forms may be desirable for efficient operation of the purchasing function. There is no set standard as to type and number of forms. The following comments describe some of the current practices in this State:
    • General requisition--to cover both the direct purchase of an item and the furnishing of the article from the warehouse.
      • Original copy to business office.
      • Copy retained at school.
    • Building requisition--to cover changes in buildings or equipment to be attached to building or connected with services.
      • Original copy to business office or building and grounds department
      • Copy retained at school.
  • Annual requisition forms. When purchasing is done on an annual basis, the following specialized and pre-established annual requisition forms or standard supply lists for recurring supplies and equipment needs may be used. The group listings indicate the breakdown into items pertaining to the department or service named.
    • (1) General arts and crafts.
    • (2) General school supplies.
    • (3) Industrial art supplies.
    • (4) Health supplies.
    • (5) Homemaking supplies.
    • (6) Kindergarten supplies.
    • (7) Library books and supplies.
    • (8) Various school equipment: desks, chairs, tables, typewriters.
    • (9) Textbooks and workbooks.
    • (10) Computer supplies and equipment.
    • (11) Musical instruments.
    • (12) Science supplies and equipment.
    • (13) Audio-visual supplies and equipment, television, radio, etc.
    • (14) Physical education and interscholastic sports supplies and equipment.
    • (15) Custodial supplies.
    • (16) Maintenance equipment.
    • (17) Transportation supplies and equipment.
    • (18) Cafeteria supplies and equipment.
      The annual requisition forms should have a place to indicate quantity on hand, quantity needed, unit cost, and net order. The school building principal should approve them before they are sent to the central office.

      In some of the larger districts of the State the following types of requisition forms and procedures have been standardized:
    • Requisition for direct purchase. Used for all items not kept in stock. (See sample form, Appendix 7.)
      • (a) One copy sent to purchasing office.
      • (b) Copy retained at initiating school or department.
    • Requisition for maintenance, repairs, and installation. Used for repairs to buildings, services, and installations of equipment that fastens to buildings. (See sample form, Appendix 8.)
      • (a) One copy to purchasing department for routing and number­ing.
      • (b) One copy to buildings and grounds department.
      • (c) Copy retained at school.
    • Requisition from warehouse stock. (See sample form, Appendix 9.)
      • (a) Original and one copy to business office. The copy returned to school with goods requested.
      • (b) One copy retained at school.

    Very large school districts may use other forms for supply and equip­ment items. For example:

    • Requisition for warehouse supply. Used only by warehouse to replenish its stock by purchase.
    • Requisition for work by buildings and grounds staff.
    • Requisition for public work contracts.
    • Release form. Used to cover release of items of equipment or supply for return to storage when no longer needed by school due to either oversupply or obsolescence.
  • Quotation. (See sample, Appendix 10.) This may be a very simple form with sufficient space to indicate in detail what is required and additional space for the bidder to enter the price. Established procedures will facilitate the processing of these forms both by the district and by the potential vendor.
    • Use of a uniform quotation form (i.e., 8-1/2" x 11").
    • b. Completion in duplicate, providing the vendor with a worksheet copy and a copy to return to the district as the quotation.
    • c. Allowance of sufficient space on sheet for bidder's interpretation of each item.
  • Purchase order form. (See sample, Appendix 11.) No two districts whose forms have been studied use the same order form. The number of copies of an order used varies from two to eight. Here again, a form that fits the needs of the district is obviously desirable. Where only two copies are prepared, the original is sent to the vendor and the duplicate remains in the purchas­ing or business office. If general agreement could be reached on the most efficient number of copies of orders to be written, the chances are good that three or four would suffice. The distribution of a four-copy order form could well be as follows:
    • Original copy to vendor.
    • One copy for encumbering; then to active numerical file of unfilled orders; to inactive numerical file when order is filled.
    • One copy to active alphabetical-by-vendor file; when bill is paid, to requisitioner. Price may be entered for reference.
    • One copy to requisitioner to be used as the receiving copy. When signed by the requisitioner and returned with the delivery slip, it shows that goods have been received and thereby furnishes a basis for payment of claim.

    To simplify filing and identification, the four copies should be in four colors. For example: white, pink, yellow, and green.

    It is a simple matter to increase the number of copies of the order form, and perhaps a reasonable use may be found for all copies authorized. However, it is much easier to add one additional copy than it is to reduce the number of copies. After once having an order copy, an individual or department only reluctantly relinquishes it, even though the need for the copy may be slight.

  • Order follow-up or expediter form. This may be a printed postcard or a printed form sent to vendor requesting information as to delivery date on order or orders already placed.
  • Receiving report may be one of the copies of the purchase order or a special form. The receiver's signature and date of receipt of goods are required on this copy before payment is authorized

C. Purchasing Tips

  • Timing purchases. The school district will benefit from prompt delivery and will avoid drop shipments and back orders by placing orders at times other than the supplier's peak-load period. This peak of purchase activity for school equipment and supplies is usually from June through August.
  • Off-season purchases. It is generally good business practice to purchase seasonal goods in the off season--lawn mowers and garden equipment in the winter when factories face a slack period; snow shovels in the summer. Contracts for fuel oil may be awarded in the summer.
  • Packaging instructions. The relative advantages of the several methods of packing and delivery in terms of cost and convenience should be weighed. Shipment to a central point costs less than drop shipments to individual schools. However, unpacking and local delivery costs may offset the initial savings.
  • Formalizing procedures. By formalizing purchasing procedures and reducing procedural instructions to writing, associates and interested personnel will benefit.
  • Standards supply lists. These may include all commonly used standard items organized in groupings such as office, general classroom, art, science, custodial, health, etc. (See Appendix 12.)
  • Control. All requests for price repair services, and purchases should be made through the purchasing office.
  • Vendor calls. Salespersons should be discouraged from making calls on teachers in schools or on maintenance employees without first clearing with the purchasing agent and building principal.
  • New information. The purchasing agent should strive constantly to increase knowledge of new materials, services, sources, and processes and should suggest new items to interested personnel.
  • Objectivity. No favoritism should be extended to any vendors. All transactions should be on the basis of quality, price, delivery, and service.
  • Personal purchases. Purchasing agents should not make personal purchases for staff personnel.
  • Contact with vendors. The purchasing agent should periodically visit vendors' plants or places of business to keep informed on new items, materials, and processes.

D. Sources of Purchasing Information. The following volumes and publications are appropriate to have available for reference purposes in any purchasing office.

  • Purchasing Periodicals:
    Purchasing (a national magazine of industrial purchasing)
    Purchasing Week
  • Miscellaneous:
    Thomas' Register of American Manufacturers. (This is a complete annual list of manufacturers by product, by manufacturer's name, and by trade name.)
    MacRae's Blue Book (similar to Thomas' Register)
    Consumer Bulletin
    Consumer Reports
    American Society for Testing and Materials

E. Professional Associations.

The purchasing official may benefit by direct contact with other officials in the same position and by active participation in associations interested in purchasing procedures. Organizations supported by New York State school district personnel are:

  • New York State Association of School Business Officials
  • New York Association of Municipal Purchasing Officials, Inc. (SAMPO)
  • Association of School Business Officials of the United States and Canada
  • National Association of Purchasing Management
  • National Institute of Governmental Purchasing

F. Criteria for Evaluating Methods of Procurement should be established by the purchasing agent. Some of these are as follows:

  • Are procedures as simple as possible?
  • Do they meet all legal requirements?
  • Do they provide sufficient records for efficient operation?
  • Are they as flexible as possible to meet changing conditions, requirements, and prices?
  • Are cost and inventory controls maintained?
  • Is the purchasing procedure economical?
  • Is budget control maintained?
  • Are the best interests and objectives of the educational program promoted by the supplies and equipment purchased under these procedures?
  • Are procedures rapid enough to prevent unnecessary supply shortages?

G. Good Public Relations. The purchasing agent is in an excellent position to promote good public relations through business contacts. A reputation for fairness should:

  • Earn the respect of associates.
  • Enhance the reputation of the board of education for ethical business procedures.
  • Merit the confidence of the public.
  • Result in good vendor relations.

In interviewing salespersons, the purchasing official should endeavor to:

  • Keep waiting time of salespersons to a minimum.
  • Give the salespersons a fair hearing.
  • Be frank--if product cannot be used, advise salesperson to that effect.

Purchasing locally may be a factor in good public relations. To what extent this can be carried on becomes a serious consideration.

H. Ethics of Purchasing. Although the purchasing practices listed herein are widely accepted, the final decisions remain largely a matter of personal judgment. These judgments are developed to a great extent through personal contacts and relationships. Through conduct and dealings with vendors, the purchasing official reflects the school board's reputation for courtesy and fair dealing. The purchasing official must maintain a high ethical standard of conduct and a reputation that is above the suspicion of unethical behavior. Two organizations which have made statements of codes are the National Association of Education­al Buyers (purchasing officials of colleges and universities) and the New York State Association of School Business Officials. The code for the latter is as follows:


1. To consider first the interests of the school district and the betterment of its educational program.

2. To endeavor to obtain the greatest value for every tax dollar expended.

3. To be receptive to advice and suggestions from colleagues, both in the education­al field and in other departments of business administration, insofar as such advice and suggestions are not in conflict with legal or moral restrictions in purchasing procedures.

4. To strive for knowledge of school equipment and supplies in order to recom­mend items that may either reduce cost or increase the efficiency of the means of education.

5. To insist on and expect honesty in sales representation whether offered verbally or in writing, through the medium of advertising or in the sample of a product submitted.

6. To give all responsible bidders equal consideration and the assurance of unbiased judgment in determining whether their product meets specifications and the educational needs of the district.

7. To discourage the offer of, and to decline, gifts that in any way might influence the purchase of school equipment and supplies.

8. To accord a prompt and courteous reception, insofar as conditions permit, to all who call on legitimate business missions.

9. To counsel and assist fellow school purchasing officials in the performance of their duties whenever occasion permits.

10. To cooperate with educational, governmental, and trade associations in the promotion and development of sound business methods in the procurement of school equipment and supplies.


Last Updated: September 14, 2010