Stretching and Saving

How one Texas school district is using plastic purchases to garner rebates and do more for their students.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has long advised stewards of tax dollars: “Don’t spend it if you can’t defend it.”

State and local governments have an opportunity not just to spend tax dollars wisely, but also to generate rebates on expenditures that stretch those tax dollars even further. Naturally, state and local government purchasers look for the best deal possible when negotiating contracts for goods. But there are also deals to be had on services; selecting the right payment card — like a consumer choosing a credit card — is no exception.

With an enrollment of 13,400 students, Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District’s (G-CISD) infrastructure investments are largely for renovations or technology upgrades. District officials saw the potential for the Citibank payment card to bring substantial rebates, getting more bang for the taxpayers’ buck on purchases such as iPads or other technology that might be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And using it for everyday purchases saves on the cost and processing of checks to vendors.

“We contact each vendor to see if they accept it,” says Deb Spurlock, Financial Services Office Manager at G-CISD. “The only people who aren’t accepting it are giving us a high government discount and are avoiding charge card processing fees that would take away from their already low margins.”

The ability to pay for large and small orders with the card greatly speeds up the payment process and reduces the number of checks issued by the district. Instead, a single electronic transfer goes from the school district’s bank account to Citibank in the amount of the previous week’s orders charged to the purchasing card.

“We’ve paid for uniforms, supplies, services and even charter bus services for spring field trips on the card,” Spurlock says.

And every expenditure nets a rebate up to 1.98 percent based on overall program use. At the end of the fiscal year, G-CISD will receive its share of the state rebate that could total tens of thousands of dollars based on the district’s monthly check register of expenditures that ranged from more than $900,000 to $2.4 million during the six months from September 2011 through February 2012.

Find out more about the State of Texas Purchasing Card contract.