This week the Lebanon City Council took the first step in increasing the city’s purchasing limits and power with a vote of 5 to 1 in favor of seeking the state’s permission.
Currently, if the city needs to acquire or purchase an item ranging anywhere from $5,000 and up, then the entire city council must approve it. Additionally, the state requires the city to seek out sealed bids.
To make the matter even more complicated, any increase for purchasing limits on the behalf of the city requires a private act in the state legislature to allow the city to amend its charter.
The last such change in purchasing limits happened in 1989. Much has changed in the world of economics over the past 20 years. Back in those days, simple roof repairs might have fallen under the $5,000 limit – not necessarily the case these days.
Fast-forward 20 years and $5,000 doesn’t buy what it used to.
One could argue that the simple install of a new heating-and-air unit could easily exceed the $5,000 threshold. There are plenty of examples of how repairs or routine expenditures fall into this category.
Not all of those scenarios should fall on the agenda for the city council to vote on.
Needless to say, times have changed and as the years have gone by, those associated costs have continued to rise.
Some might argue that spending taxpayers’ money should be transparent, and thus the current requirements should stay in place. There’s a place for the sealed bid process, and without doubt, the need for transparency is evident regardless of how much money the city spends.
However, we’re not convinced the full council needs to vote every time the city has to fork out a few thousand dollars. Case in point, anything costing more than $10,000 seems reasonable in this decade and the one approaching.
Another contributing factor to consider is the size of the city. Lebanon has grown dramatically over the past two decades, and as with any business, when it grows so does its operating costs. The same is true for government.
While we support the purchasing limits and the council’s decision to seek an increase, we do recognize there are times where the public should become involved.
But we also recognize that inflation affects more than just the average Joe, and 1989’s dollar bears little resemblance to 2013’s dollar.