Category 2 Bidding Options/Requirements for PA Applicants
November 10, 2015
~ PEPPM-Specific Mini-Bid Instructions to Follow ~
The Category 2 competitive bidding rules/requirements for PA applicants are somewhat complex because there are state-specific laws in addition to E-rate rules that must be followed. The following message outlines the options and requirements for PA public schools, nonpublic schools and libraries (as I understand them) and hopefully provides you with a step-by-step path to ensure your E-rate success. Attached to this message is a sample RFP for networking equipment that you may use/edit as you wish. Also attached is a PDF of the information provided below in case the formatting is lost.
General Bidding Reminders for All Applicants:
1) E-rate rules require applicants that include a model number or manufacturer’s name to also include the words “or equivalent” on their Form 470/RFP and then evaluate equivalent products that are bid. Applicants may state that such equipment must be compatible with the District’s existing equipment (in which case the existing equipment must be identified).
2) E-rate rules require that any bid disqualification reasons be stated in the State and Local Procurement Requirements of the Form 470 or in the RFP.
3) Applicants should not contact a potential vendor prior to bidding to seek an equipment list (E-rate rule).
– Service providers are allowed to answer general questions about the products and services they sell in response to applicant inquiries, but they may not prepare any part of a RFP or spec sheet/bill of materials that will be used by the applicant for conducting a competitive bid procurement.
– If you don’t know exactly what equipment you need, list general equipment needs (wireless controller, WAPs for 35 classrooms, and installation), and then perhaps conduct a site walk-through.
4) Updated guidance: You must have a signed contract for all Category 2 funding requests. This can be as simple as a signed vendor quote as long as it contains this information:
– Contract signing date (must be on or before the Form 471 submission date).
– Term of contract (4/1/2016 – 9/30/2017 for equipment purchases).
– List of equipment/quantities/prices (or services) and installation costs.
– Whether you want the equipment/services to be contingent upon E-rate funding approval.
A. Non-Public Schools: Nonpublic schools may either post a Form 470 or conduct a PEPPM Mini-Bid. If filing a Form 470, nonpublic schools may also issue a RFP if they so choose but an RFP is not required. If an RFP is issued, the RFP must be uploaded into the new Form 470 as the form is being created. After a minimum of 28 days, nonpublic school applicants must conduct a bid evaluation and may consider other factors besides lowest price, but price of eligible goods and services must be the most heavily weighted factor. Advertising in the local newspapers is not required. A contract must be signed before the Form 471 is filed. If conducting a PEPPM Mini-Bid, please follow the instructions to follow in the next listserve message.
B. Libraries: Libraries must post a Form 470 and may also issue an RFP if they so choose but an RFP is not required. If an RFP is issued, the RFP must be uploaded into the new Form 470 as the form is being created. After a minimum of 28 days, libraries must conduct a bid evaluation and may consider other factors besides lowest price, but price of eligible goods and services must be the most heavily weighted factor. Advertising in the local newspapers is not required. A contract must be signed before the Form 471 is filed.
C. Public School Entities: Public school entities have several bidding requirements as outlined below. Please pay careful attention to all of the requirements of each option.
1) Category 2 equipment/services costing less than $19,400: Schools may file a Form 470 to competitively bid the equipment/services it seeks. Issuance of a RFP is optional and not mandatory.
2) Category 2 equipment/services costing between $10,300 – $19,399: If no RFP is issued, schools must request written or telephonic price quotations from at least three bidders. After a minimum of 28 calendar days, schools must conduct a bid evaluation and may consider other factors besides lowest price in their bid evaluation, but price of eligible goods and services must be the most heavily weighted factor. A contract must be signed before the Form 471 is filed.
3) Category 2 contracts costing more $19,400 or more: Schools have two options:
a) File a Form 470 and issue an RFP: The RFP must be uploaded into the new Form 470 as the form is being created, and the RFP must be advertised in at least 2 local newspapers of general circulation once a week for 3 consecutive weeks. RFPs may set minimum requirements such as “must be compatible with district’s existing XXX equipment,” “vendor must have been in business for more than 5 years,” “must be able to provide all products and services in the RFP or equivalent,” “must have an E-rate SPIN number,” “must have provided all information required in the RFP,” etc. After a minimum of 28 calendar days, schools must determine which vendors complied with the minimum bid requirements and of those, the lowest price bid must be selected. Under state law, schools are not permitted to consider other bid evaluation criteria besides price. Please note that structured cabling projects are best served by using the Form 470/RFP and not using the PEPPM Mini-Bid process.
Attached to this message is a sample equipment RFP that you may use/edit as you wish. The areas highlighted in yellow must be modified to meet your individual needs/specifications. Best Practice Timeline: Try to Post 470/File RFP by December 1 so you can have your board approve the contract at their January or February board meeting. Note regarding Prevailing Wage Act: PA public school entities are required to comply with the Prevailing Wage Act for public works contracts which include ‘construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration and/or repair work other than maintenance work, done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of the funds of a public body where the estimated cost of the total project is in excess of $25,000.’ Maintenance work is defined as the repair of existing facilities when the size, type or extent of such facilities is not thereby changed or increased. In speaking with several knowledgeable school officials, they believe that structured cabling projects costing more than $25,000 would be required to comply with the Prevailing Wage Act. You will want to check with your school district solicitor to determine if he or she believes the Prevailing Wage Act applies and if so, be sure to include this requirement in your structured cabling RFP.
b) Use the PEPPM contract and conduct a ‘PEPPM Mini-Bid’: Public schools using the PEPPM contract are not required to post a Form 470, but are required to conduct a ‘mini-bid’ of all product lines in a specific “Category” and then consider all bids submitted. Categories will be wireless equipment, switches, routers, firewalls, UPSs, cabling/connectors, racks, and caching servers. A complete guide to conducting a PEPPM Mini-Bid is coming in a separate listserve message and will explain how to conduct the mini-bids. There is no 28-day mini-bid requirement, but you should give vendors at least 14 calendar days to submit proposals (new guidance for FY 2016). Using the prices contained in the proposals submitted, then create a bid evaluation to select the successful vendor. Price of eligible equipment/services must be the most heavily weighted factor, but you may consider other factors such as previous experience with the District, references, cost to train or certify staff on new equipment, etc. When the successful vendor is selected, then contact that vendor to obtain a contract document (or final quote with exact quantities) for the District to sign.
Best Practice Timeline: Release your mini-bid vendor requests before December 15, then conduct your bid evaluation and select your vendor by January 5 so you can have your board approve the award at their January or February board meeting.
If you have any questions related to the information contained in this message, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reminder, the complete guide to conducting a PEPPM Mini-Bid is coming in the next listserve message.
Julie Tritt Schell
PA E-rate Coordinator
o – 717-730-7133
f – 717-730-9060