Monday, April 23, 2018
Education

Pinellas school district considers new ways to sell excess equipment

Pinellas County school officials are changing how they get rid of excess or outdated equipment after a local pawn shop owner said the school district was shortchanging itself.

Tim Russell, of Big Tim's Pawn in Pinellas Park, said he expected to make $25,000 to $30,000 in profit on items he purchased for less than $900 at a district on-site auction. He planned to sell the items on eBay and in his store. That was in May.

Since then, school officials have made some changes. A committee, which includes a principal and teachers, will determine whether surplus equipment still could be of use in schools or other district locations. They also will offer equipment to charter schools.

If the items can't be used, then they will be sold.

"They're looking at where they can get the best return," said Michael Bessette, the district's head of facilities and operations.

The School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a revamp of its official policy.

A committee to examine the issue was formed over the summer and already has met three times. Committee members, including Russell, have decided to test-run two online auction sites, govdeals.com and publicsurplus.com, over the next year to see which one yields the best prices, said Melanie Marquez, a district spokeswoman.

The district had been selling excess equipment through an on-site auction that had been organized by the same company for 20 years.

Items sold at an auction in April included weight machines, boats, cars, industrial sewing machines, refrigerators, commercial ovens, welders, tools, lawn mowers and even a Yamaha WaveRunner.

Some items appeared to have gone for far less than online listings. A Hobart 60-quart mixer went for $1,700. Similar used industrial mixers were listing for $3,000 to $6,000 on eBay.

Bessette said in May that the district already has done a little experimenting with online auctions, with good results. The food services department made $38,800 through online sales earlier this year. The department made only $14,000 at the April auction.

Marquez said the committee also will review how much staff time had to be invested in the online sites. It's possible that the district will use on-site auctions and online sales in the future. Some surplus equipment, such as district vehicles, won't be sold online.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected], (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

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