Texas Rising - Summer 2011

Best Value Buying

Purchasing Co-ops Help
Governments Save Time, Money

by Mark Wangrin

In these times of stretching a dollar to its limits, Texas state government’s catalog of cooperative purchasing opportunities is helping governments get the most for their money.

The Comptroller’s Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) Division, which runs the TxSmartBuy ordering system, is working to get more government entities to take advantage of the state’s $13 billion purchasing power.

“Many local governments have not tapped into the benefits of the State of Texas CO-OP program,” says Julie Rabeux, manager of Local Government Assistance and Economic Analysis for the Comptroller’s office. “The return on the low $100 annual membership fee can be a true asset for a community.”

Rabeux says programs such as the CO-OP save governments money, as well as time an entity would devote to bidding and, contracting purchases independently. TPASS handles the bidding process and, once a vendor is chosen, executes a contract that fulfills all of the state’s governmental competitive bidding requirements.


TPASS CO-OP is the state’s volume purchasing system available to local governments and assistance organizations. Members can purchase goods and services from state term contracts, TXMAS contracts and piggyback contracts.

More information:


TxSmartBuy is an online ordering system run by Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) that allows state and local governments to take advantage of the state government’s $13 billion purchasing power to use pre-negotiated and pre-approved contracts on more than 1 million products.

More information:

  • TxSmartBuy.com
  • Email: txsmartbuy@cpa.state.tx.us
  • Phone:
    in Austin (512) 936-2764
    toll free (888) 479-7602


BuyBoard is a cooperative purchasing system run by the Texas Association of School Boards that allows government agencies to use a customized online purchasing system to buy contracted items. The system is supported by income from vendor service fees and flat-rate customer service fees for trucks ($400), ambulances and school buses ($800) and fire apparatus ($1,500).

More information:

“It allows local governments to post bids on the statewide systems, helping them to fulfill their bidding requirements and lets them tap into the state’s contracts that offer great price points and best value due to the magnitude of our purchasing power,” Rabeux says. “When communities are facing a time of having to do more with less, this is an easy way for them to free up local funds for other purposes.”

TPASS tracks purchase information to allow it to better negotiate future contracts.

“TPASS has purchasing procedures in place to ensure best value and to rebid its contracts to stay current with market pricing,” says Ron Pigott, director of TPASS.

The State of Texas CO-OP isn’t the only solution for governmental entities looking to buy effectively. Another option is the Local Government Purchasing Cooperative BuyBoard, the electronic purchasing system operated by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), which is open to all local and county governments, nonprofits and state agencies to buy items ranging from athletic gear to water treatment supplies. BuyBoard does not have an annual charge, but a 2 percent administrative fee is built into all prices.

BuyBoard Director Gerald Brashears points to the administrative savings for entities using any of the co-ops.

“It gives the governmental entity the ability to purchase and actually negotiate a best value price from the vendor without them having to go through the administrative burden of bidding it on their own,” he says.

Local governments are picking up on the advantages of volume purchasing. TASB has partnered with the Texas Municipal League and Texas Association of Counties to promote BuyBoard, growing the overall volume of sales and adding cities and counties to its customer base.

And while any co-op buying option can offer savings to local governments, access to more than one purchasing system offers members the potential for even greater savings, Brashears says.

“If one of our members is buying school buses for example, they can look at BuyBoard, the State of Texas CO-OP and others,” he says. “The member can avoid the cost of taking out publication advertisements for bids. They know what they want and can comparison shop to get the best value.” TR


CO-OP’s Numbers:

  • 186 contracts
  • 1 million products with locked-in prices
  • 1,163 registered vendors
  • $13 billion annual purchases

TxSmartBuy just got smarter.

The Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) Division continually reacts to user feedback to enhance the online TxSmartBuy ordering system. Among the most recent changes to improve the system and entice users to order more frequently:

  • Fewer emails are sent about each purchase order.
  • Items in the Purchase Order (PO) are listed in a more logical sequence. The order on the PO will match the order of the items in the cart, giving the purchaser control over the way items are listed.
  • PO cancellation messages are printed in large text across the top of the Purchase Order PDF.
  • It’s easier to use plurals in searches, even when spelled differently (such as “knife” and “knives”).
  • More specific product selection has been added.

The recent improvements build on the system enhancements added in June 2010, which included universal keyword searches, allowing specific delivery dates and requiring terms for leases and rentals that allow administrative fees to be billed accurately.

“We hope the updates make it easier to search and shop in the system, order items in the system and communicate those orders to vendors and purchasers,” says Lara Bell, TPASS special projects coordinator.

Top spending categories by Texas state agencies and CO-OP members on TxSmartBuy
(Fiscal 2011 through May)

 Road Aggregate $140.6 M
Road Aggregate $140.6 M
 Food $58.9 M
Food $58.9 M
 Copiers $42.8 M
Copiers $42.8 M
 Automobiles $38.2 M (1,577 vehicles + accessories)
Automobiles $38.2 M (1,577 vehicles + accessories)
 Trucks $26.2 M (928 trucks + accessories)
Trucks $26.2 M (928 trucks + accessories)