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Birmingham updates purchasing guidelines

By Grace Lovins

This election season, Birmingham voters overwhelmingly approved a proposed change to the charter amendment, raising the limit for contracts and the purchase of goods without having to adhere to formal bidding and approval processes, and as a result of the proposal passing, the city commission reviewed and approved an update to the city’s purchasing guidelines at the meeting on Monday, November 28, at the recommendation of city staff.

Prior to the midterm elections, the ceiling for formal bidding to be required was $6,000, but voters approved an increase of the ceiling to $75,000, which went into effect on November 14, 2022. Because of the changes to the limit for formal bidding, city staff recommended a change to the purchasing guidelines that offers additional guidance and purchasing requirements not found in the city charter or previous city ordinance.

Mark Gerber, Birmingham Finance Director, explained that the recommended changes would provide four dollar levels of increased purchasing requirements based on monetary risk to the city as opposed to the current three dollar levels. The four dollar levels are: under $2,500; $2,500-$25,000; $25,001-$74,999; and $75,000 or greater – each have increased levels of requirements that, according to Gerber, make sure the city is getting competitive bidding as much as possible.

Gerber noted that the guidelines ensure reasonable steps are taken in getting the best price for the city when making purchases, and the requirements for the four dollar levels incorporates as much overview with the city manager as possible. For instance, at the $2,500-$25,000 level, written price quotes are needed from at least three different vendors or cooperative purchasing, and amounts between $10,000-$25,000, or non-budgeted purchases, need approval from the city manager.

Purchases over $25,000 but under $75,000 need formal price quotes or a cooperative purchasing vendor with a contract signed by the department head, city attorney, city manager and finance director. Purchases of $75,000 or over must follow the competitive bidding requirements found in the city’s code of ordinances and must be approved by the department head, city attorney, finance director, city manager and city commission.

Commissioners voted 6-0 to approve the new purchasing guidelines with minimal discussion or questions. Commissioner Andrew Haig was absent from the meeting.

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