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Let’s make a deal: CPS has saved $23 million since April

Sebastian De Longeaux Chief Procurement Officer CPS who has haggled his way millidollars savings things like office supplies uniforms is

Sebastian De Longeaux, Chief Procurement Officer of CPS who has haggled his way to a million dollars in savings on things like office supplies and uniforms, is photographed in his office on Friday, December 28, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 31, 2013 6:39AM



Chicago Public Schools said Friday it has saved $23 million on purchasing contracts since April, when it hired an aggressive new head of the department that handles big buys.

Chief Procurement Officer Sébastien de Longeaux said he’s tried some private-sector tactics to negotiate better deals for the district.

“We are working much better with all our departments so we have one voice with suppliers,” said de Longeaux, who has a long history of purchasing in the corporate world.

Operating on a budget of about $5.1 billion, CPS is staring down an expected $1 billion deficit by summer. The nation’s third largest district of 403,000 students is expected to close or consolidate dozens of schools by year’s end.

“Through renegotiation, leveraging competition and building strong and transparent relationships with our vendors, we will get the best value for our dollar, an absolute necessity in this financial climate, and preserve scarce resources for the benefit of our students,” CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.

De Longeaux said his office shopped around, then targeted large suppliers. “We did a forum, we told them how broke we are,” he said. With some longtime suppliers, “we said if you don’t lower your price by at least 10 percent, we’re ready to go to the market and use a different model.”

Office Depotwill yield about $1.35 million in savings on office supplies over the next 12 months. Caremark, provider of prescription drugs in the CPS health plan, will be good for another $3.8 million in each of two years.

The district bundled its computer purchases with the City of Chicago and with Cook County to save some $3 million in volume discounts — about a 30 percent discount, de Longeaux said. It’ll save $4.4 million total on electricity through January 2014 after negotiating its power contract once prices dropped.

And the district bundled purchases of other things many schools buy in large quantities, say school and gym uniforms now bought under a single vendor to save up to $36,000 over two years compared with an earlier contract. The exact savings will depend on how many schools buy uniforms through the contract, according to CPS.

“You have some big contracts where we need lots of attention, but everything needs to be challenged,” de Longeaux said.

“We are big clients for them so we have some power.”

Milk savings alone account for $1 million. Prompted by an investigation by the Sun-Times and Better Government Association revealed in March that CPS paid more for milk — to a politically connected milk vendor — than many smaller suburban districts, the district renegotiated its milk contract by a penny a carton.

“Do the math,” says Tim Cawley, chief administrative officer for Chicago’s schools, said at the time.



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