2014-01-09 / Front Page

Increase to limit adopted

County sets $200 purchase limit before paperwork is required

MANISTIQUE – County department heads now have more control over how much they can spend before approval is needed from the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners. A change to the policy was made during a recent meeting of the board.

In the Dec. 17 meeting, Commissioner Craig Reiter brought forth concerns about a $100 limit on budgeted purchases by county departments. Once any department made a purchase over $100, they needed to submit a purchase requisition to the county board for approval.

Reiter, along with various department heads, pointed out that the limit was unreasonable in today’s financial climate. At that time, the board split 2-2 on whether to raise the limit from $100 to $300. The matter was referred to the county finance committee.

During the Dec. 26 meeting, County Clerk Dan McKinney said he had looked back through old county files and discovered the limit had been set at $100 after the then-county commissioners had sent out several memorandums to department heads asking for explanations about being over budget.

He noted that since January 2013, the number of purchase requisitions varied from department, ranging from only two from circuit court to 44 from the sheriff’s department.

McKinney said he emphasized with the past board’s thinking when implementing the limit.

“We’re talking office supplies, for the most part … office supply funds are very limited for departments,” he said. “I think the intent was to pre-approve to try to engage the department heads in the process and plan ahead.”

McKinney said it looks like the memos were sent in the late 90s and the policy was put into place sometime in 2000. He added he was not opposed to raising the limit and entrusting department heads with the task of keeping budgets in line.

“I think trying to engage department heads and let them take ownership of their department is a good idea,” he said. “Now, it’s sounding like there’s some people (who) believe that the commissioners are micro managing, but I don’t think that’s the intent at all.”

Reiter again spoke about the unreasonable nature of the current limit.

“The problem is the $100 used to cover more than it does now,” he said. “That’s the issue.”

McKinney suggested raising the limit, but to also take the additional step of setting the non-budgeted limit to zero. This would ensure any non-budgeted items are preapproved.

“By the way … if you spend money that’s not in the budget, that’s illegal,” he said. “The Uniform Budget and Accounting Act says that is a violation of the law.”

Commissioner Dan LaFoille suggested raising the limit before a purchase requisition is required for budgeted items to $200, and to immediately require a purchase requisition for any and all unbudgeted items.

“I don’t think we’re imposing ridiculous means to get this done,” he said. “Hopefully folks will appreciate that.”

The new limits were unanimously approved by the commissioners. Commissioner Jerry Zellar was absent.

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