Understanding City Hall: What is a Request For Proposal (RFP)?

“RFP” a Common Term in City Government

“RFP” is a frequent presence on City meeting agendas. We spoke with City Administrator Steve Barg about what an RFP is and why they are important.

What is an RFP?

An RFP (Request for Proposals) is a document sent out to parties who may be interested in submitting a proposal to provide a particular good or service to the City. Upon receiving proposals, the City may choose the one that best fits its needs, regardless of whether it’s the lowest cost. This is different than public bidding for municipal projects (street reconstruction/resurfacing, etc.), where the City is usually obligated to select the low bidder, unless that contractor is disqualified based on lack of qualifications, past performance, etc., which is quite rare.

What is the RFP process?:

Each RFP process can be a bit different, depending upon the urgency of securing a good/service, and how long staff estimates it would take for qualified firms or individuals to prepare a proposal. Usually the City sends out a solicitation, broadly through various advertising venues, and specifically to contractors/consultants believed to be qualified and that perform that type of work or produce that type of product. The length of time proposals are accepted typically depends on the amount of time and effort expected to respond. After the deadline, a team comprised of all staff, or a mix of staff and elected officials (depending on the product/service involved) reviews the proposals received, and if necessary, interviews one or more of the proposers. Then a recommendation is brought to the appropriate City committee for review/consideration, and ultimately to the City Council for final approval.

What legal requirements are there with an RFP?:

An RFP isn’t the same as public bidding required for certain improvements to public buildings/facilities, and the City has great latitude in the RFP process, including the right to reject all proposals, if it wishes. Unless some evidence of unfair treatment of proposers is observed, the City is pretty much able to establish its own process for seeking qualified contractors/consultants, and making final decisions on which firm to select.

Which situations require an RFP/Who is required to submit an RFP?:

As noted above, an RFP is sent out at the City’s discretion only. Having said that, we routinely use RFPs to seek proposals for a variety of professional services (auditor, banking services, design consultant, etc.), along with seeking to purchase larger pieces of equipment. Anyone wishing to compete in an attempt to be the provider of that good or service must submit a proposal that meets all of the requirements set forth in the City’s RFP.

How does this process help City government?:

Taxpayers expect the City to obtain quality goods and services at the best possible price. Soliciting and reviewing proposals from multiple qualified providers enables City officials to make the best choices for the City’s specific needs.

How does this process benefit taxpayers?:

The greatest benefit of the RFP process to taxpayers is that the City looks at a wide variety of firms and proposals when securing goods and services, helping ensure that the City gets the best value when making procurement decisions.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?:

If you have any questions about how RFPs, or how/when the City uses them, feel free to contact City Administrator Steve Barg at 486-2003 or Steve.Barg@ci.marshfield.wi.us.