Steve Giesbrecht stands in front of the Petersburg Borough logo in the Assembly chambers. (Photo by Joe Sykes/KFSK)

Petersburg’s borough assembly advanced a measure that would ease some restrictions on local government spending at a regular meeting, Aug. 15. The ordinance would eliminate spending limits in the municipal code for department heads and increase the amount the borough manager is allowed to spend without assembly approval from $30,000 to $75,000.

Borough Assembly Member Dave Kensinger sponsored the change.

“If we increase the borough manager’s spending limit to $75,000 it would follow that the department head cannot spend more than $75,000 or whatever amount that the borough manager deems to give the authority to that department head to be able to spend.”

As it stands, department heads have to get the manager’s approval to spend more than $5,000 at a time, even for items authorized in the borough budget. However, Kensinger said those spending limits should be left up to the manager to decide.

“To me it just seems like a lot of bureaucratize for department heads to have to go to the borough manager to approve a spending amount that he’s going to approve anyway,” he said. “And so, I would like to eliminate that step. And since the borough manager is the direct employee of this body, he’s responsible for any of the errors or mistakes that any of his employees make. So, we would hold him responsible and ultimately, he would hold his employees responsible.”

Though the manager would have more flexibility under the new spending policy, he would still be required to get assembly approval to go beyond the borough’s annual budget.

Assembly members who were present at the meeting Bob Lynn, Jeff Meucci, and Tom Fine-Walsh supported Kensinger’s proposed changes. Assembly Member Chelsea Tremblay, as well as Mayor Mark Jensen, and Vice Mayor Jeigh Stanton-Gregor were not at the meeting.

In a meeting earlier this month, Public Works Director Chris Cotta supported more flexibility in borough spending, noting that prices have gone up in recent years. He said increasing the manager’s spending limit would streamline the purchasing process.

There will be another public hearing and a final vote on the issue at the assembly’s Sept. 6 meeting.

Here is the ordinance that assembly considered at the Aug. 15 meeting. Borough Clerk Debbie Thompson said she would update the language with the amendment changes for their next meeting.