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Muskego officials want more control on spending throughout year

Jan. 14, 2013

Muskego - Muskego aldermen will review whether a change they made last year to the city's purchasing policy is a little too hands-off.

The new policy came under criticism at last week's Committee of the Whole meeting because aldermen have no say over how money is spent, once the Common Council approves the budget for the year.

Priorities change and sometimes spending for a large project isn't such a good idea anymore, Alderman Daniel Soltysiak said. He would rather go back to the way it was before with the Finance Committee signing off on all contracts of more than $25,000, he said. Under the changed policy, no contracts or expenditures come back to the committee or Common Council, if they are in the budget.

"That takes away too many checks and balances," Soltysiak said.

Alderman Neil Borgman agreed, saying, "We are the people who are supposed to spend the people's money."

Alderman Kert Harenda criticized the new policy for a different reason, saying that money saved on one project can be applied to another when the council might not want that to happen. He wanted more council oversight on such transfers.

Harenda also said he didn't like how the reverse could happen, also.

When the city doesn't do a project, the money gets absorbed, "And it's gone," he said.

As long as the review will take place, Borgman said he wanted to take another look at requiring going out for bids for more things.

The Committee of the Whole will meet with department heads as early as Jan. 22 to see if going back to the old policy or modifying the new one might be in order.

The policy was changed as the city sought to make the old policy more clear and to update it, Mayor Cathy Chiaverotti said after the meeting. Muskego's purchasing policy is patterned after policies in other communities including Brookfield and Elm Grove. They are among many communities that don't have large contracts and purchases come back to the council, she said.

But Soltysiak said he found many communities that continue to have the $25,000 threshold for items coming back to legislative bodies.

Aldermen agreed that the trick will be to maintain comfortable control without slowing down the flow needed to get projects and purchases done efficiently.

Soltysiak said the $25,000 threshold worked for many years until it was changed last year.

But Alderman Rob Glazier who was appointed to the council last year could see the potential for chaos in the form of budget battles that had been lost at budget time starting up anew when individual expenditure approvals are needed.

"I don't want a budget discussion every council meeting," Glazier said.

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