Warren County government is considering an increase in its departmental spending limit, from $10,000 to $25,000.
The financial boundary is the threshold that dictates if full Warren County Commission approval is required.
Currently, the spending limit for county departments is $10,000. If the item being purchased is $10,000 or less, directors can informally obtain three estimates and present those for committee consideration. Warren County Commission approval is not required.
If the cost is $10,000 or more, directors must undergo a formal bidding process by advertising the item, accepting bids from any interested company, reviewing those in committee and the commission is allowed final approval.
The county’s Financial Management Committee met to consider an increase proposed by Director of Schools Bobby Cox, who says the 81 Act the county adopted several years ago allows a spending limit of $25,000 if the county assigns a purchasing agent to inspect the informal bids taken by directors.
Road Superintendent Levie Glenn objected to increased oversight by the county’s Finance Department and wanted to keep the level at up to $10,000 with no oversight.
“It lets on like the Finance Department is trying to run these other departments,” said Glenn. “With the Highway Department, it is my duty to see about the purchasing and I don’t think we need a purchasing agent. I don’t want the Finance Department running my bid process because I already have a few issues and I don’t want any more.”
Finance Department director Justin Cotten replied, “They wouldn’t be running your department. You would still have the final say. They would just be making sure any purchases …”
Interjected Glenn, “Is that not what the auditors do?”
“They only audit so much,” began Cotten.
Glenn asked, “Have we been breaking the law? Have we had problems with that in the past?”
“No,” said Cotten. “This person would just be required to go back and double check that anything we bought was under the purchasing limit and was a competitive price.”
A purchasing agent is not required if the spending limit stays at $10,000.
Cox voiced approval for the higher limit.
“I think it gives me, from the school system, more flexibility because I can make the decision up to $25,000,” said Cox. “If I can search for things and maybe get a national bid, that’s cheaper and save the money from having to advertise it and go through the bid process. The way I see it is the purchasing agent, they are really just doing the processing and paperwork.”
Glenn again voiced discontent with the county’s Finance Department.
“We already have the emails back and forth now with the Finance Department on some things that I’m not very happy with,” reiterated Glenn before the vote. “That’s just my opinion and I’m going to speak it.”
The motion to change the spending limit from $10,000 to $25,000 passed 4-3. County Executive Jimmy Haley, Cox and Commissioners Richard Grissom and Daniel Owens voted in favor of increasing it to $25,000. Glenn and Commissioners Scott Rubley and Gary Martin voted against the change.
The measure requires approval by the full Warren County Commission. Its next session is Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m.