Is Your School District Overpaying for Vendor Services?

Is your school district overpaying for vendor services?

Current economic challenges have made it imperative for school districts to continually assess their fiscal health to find ways to combat rising costs and budget shortfalls. Many are finding that increasing costs are stretching budgets significantly. And while State and Federal funding has been helpful, those funds are being reduced and/or drying up. 

Many vendors are also feeling the same squeeze and are passing on their increased costs to their customers. We have seen significant rate increases in areas such as telecom, utilities, waste, software, and supplies.

Are these reviews complex and time consuming?

Not necessarily complex but can be time consuming if you don’t have the resources or right tools. Let’s focus on telecom as an example. 

Telecom is becoming more important, and more complex, than ever. Rapidly improving technology (phones, videoconferencing, internet connectivity, and related services) is allowing some districts to streamline systems and potentially realize cost efficiencies. But effective management requires monitoring numerous phone lines and devices, monitoring vendor rate plans which are often changing, and a host of other variables.

Many districts simply don’t have the time or the tools necessary to keep track of those variables. So, they end up overpaying for these services – sometimes by 40% or more – without even realizing it.

How can you make sure your district isn’t one of them?

Understanding where you are now

Getting a handle on your telecom environment can be eye-opening. At a minimum, here are the things you need to know to determine whether you are paying too much:

  • Have an inventory of all current systems and vendors (regular phones, cell phones, videoconferencing, internet services, etc.)
  • Know all available rate plans for those systems & devices
  • Determine how lines are being used and for what purpose (regular phones, fax lines, elevator lines, alarms, fire, etc.)
  • Be clear on differing needs by department or school, if any
  • Understand external support costs, if any
  • Be clear on the availability of special rate programs (e.g. eRate)
  • Rate your vendor’s customer service performance
  • Understand the time your staff spends on managing telecom, including reviewing invoices


Answering the key questions

Ultimately, that information will allow you to answer three vital questions:

  • Do our existing telecom services meet our needs?
  • Are we only paying for the services we need and use?
  • Are we under the right rate plan for those services?


Getting on the right path

This isn’t a one-time task: Even if you’re paying the right amount today, that’s no guarantee you will be tomorrow. School districts should go through this process periodically with their vendors, because technology, pricing, and their needs all change. The upside is immense – the more your district saves here, the more it can put back into the classroom!

And the good news is you don’t have to do it alone.


Michael Salazar is a Strategic Partner at Schooley Mitchell, which has been helping organizations optimize processes and costs for more than 25 years. To learn more about Michael and Schooley Mitchell, please visit his website.