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Bid to increase superintendent’s purchasing power gets little support

By Staff | Aug 24, 2011

The majority of the Lee County School Board said they could not support a $25,000 increase to the superintendent’s purchasing authority without school board approval Tuesday afternoon.

The proposal would increase the superintendent’s purchasing authority from $25,000 to $50,000.

The revision came before the board due to concerns district personnel had about obtaining board approval when making purchases of more than $25,000 during the summer months when school board meetings are not as frequent.

Financial Accounting and Property Records Director Greta Campbell said the summer months are problematic because there only being one meeting a month. She said some of the purchases that need to be made relate to some of the departments that do work over the summer.

“We are at the end of the school year and we are attempting to get all the things done for the next year,” she said. “The high volume of bids and contracts could be one of the issues faced with getting it done.”

Campbell said they want to do everything thoroughly and analyze the information, among other details before it is ready for board approval.

Assistant Director of Procurement Susan Malay said what they are asking is not about contracts, but rather about purchase requisitions. She said those are not received in advance and they are a part of doing business over the summer.

“That is when we have the high volume,” she said. “We can’t plan in advance because we don’t know in a certain time.”

Malay said 195 purchases have come before the board in the past year.

Board Chairman Thomas Scott said he would like to see a quarterly recap of the expenditures that have been made. He also added that he believes the board has not stopped any purchases between $25,000 and $50,000.

Board Member Jeanne Dozier said she cannot support raising the threshold to $50,000 because she knows what is expected of her from the people she represents.

“I am slipping down a slide and it’s not fun,” she said. “I know what the expectation of the people I deal with is. One of the things that they expect is oversight, this is giving up part of the oversight.”

Dozier said if she approved the $50,000 threshold she knows what kind of calls she would receive, which she said would be uncomfortable for her.

“You don’t have a threat made to your job,” she said. “That is the type of conversations that come to us. I am here at the will of the people. My service is their expectation of me. The people will not take kindly to this.”

Dozier said Tuesday afternoon that she had to respectively ask what do you do when you know you have deadlines, you plan accordingly.

“If we know that there are going to be this many meetings, then we know that we need to have contracts at the board’s table, so all of your work can be done when it needs to be done,” she said.

Board Member Don Armstrong also said could not support the $50,000 authority amount.

Vice Chairman Mary Fischer said when they had a workshop concerning the policy in previous months, they were provided with data that showed that most of the school districts either adopted the $50,000 purchasing authority threshold or were in the process of doing so.

“The fact that this is available to us on the website needs to be a consideration. We can advertise that to the public that they can access that information at their whim,” Fischer said. “We are spending the money anyway.”