BISD's online auctions lucrative

Selling surplus merchandise via the online auction site Public Surplus Auction has become a money - making deal for the Brownsville Independent School District.

In three months BISD has made more than three times as much money as it did in a whole year when BISD was holding actual physical auctions, Chief Financial Officer Lucio Mendoza said.

Public Surplus Auction works much the same way as eBay. BISD started using the service on March 9. Since then it has sold $108,987 in surplus goods.

BISD last held a physical auction on Oct. 29, 2011, selling a year's worth of surplus property for $37,314, according to figures provided by the district. However, BISD had to pay the auctioneer a 12 percent fee, or $4,478, so the net was $32,836.

Using publicsurplus.com, there is no cost to BISD. A 10 percent buyer's premium is charged to the purchaser and all financial transactions are transacted electronically. No property is released until Public Surplus Auction receives payment, which is then transferred electronically to BISD. The company specializes in government surplus sales.

By going online BISD casts a wider net, Mendoza said, with buyers from California, Arizona and across the country purchasing items that the district can no longer use.

Kent Whittemore, BISD administrator for Warehouse, Textbooks and Fixed Assets, said online auctions so far have included surplus school buses, so the proceeds compare favorably to the last physical auction.

But he said online auctions have advantages over physical auctions beyond just not having to pay an auctioneer. Essentially, surplus items can be sold as they become surplus, eliminating the need to warehouse them until there's enough to have an auction.

In the short time BISD has been auctioning surplus merchandise in online, it has developed a process for making sure the merchandise is truly surplus, Whittemore said.

First the BISD Board of Trustees must declare the items surplus, then the campuses have first crack at them and "if they're still usable we'll keep them," Whitemore said. The entire process is reviewed by internal auditors so that "by the time we do send an item to auction, it's truly obsolete and surplus."

Whittemore credited Mendoza for instituting online auctions at BISD, which he said will end up saving warehousing costs as well as bringing a better return at auction.

Mendoza said that when the Mission school district where he used to work went to online auctions for surplus property it experienced "a 400 percent increase in revenue. It's just a more efficient way of doing things," he said.

Whittemore echoed that thought, noting that buyers come here and pick up their items, many of which are delivered shrink-wrapped and on pallets, eliminating the need for cleanup. He said BISD has plenty of surplus stuff, including portable buildings, retired school buses and a maintenance warehouse full of obsolete furniture.