Sandy Springs is significantly decreasing the amount of money the city manager can spend on contracts without City Council review in a change officials say will enhance transparency and comply with a new state law.

The purchasing policy provides the city manager the ability to approve city contracts up to a specified amount without prior approval from the council. Originally, the city manager’s spending maxed at $250,000, a number that had not been adjusted since the formation of the city nearly 15 years ago. The new limit, approved by the City Council Aug. 6, is $99,000.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul.

Mayor Rusty Paul said that the previous, much larger number was left over from the city’s formation in 2005. During the process of incorporating the city, the original council chose to give “broad discretion” for the city manager’s spending.

“That was more of an emergency, temporary kind of approach,” Paul said. “But over the last 14 years, we just never adjusted it.”

The revision also brings the city in compliance with a recent state law amendment that requires all federally funded public works projects above $100,000 to be posted on the state’s Georgia Procurement Registry (GPR), which is an online portal that lists all current projects in the state.

“So between changes in state law, as well as when we are in this period of transition between city managers, I felt it was an appropriate time to re-examine the purchasing levels available to the city manager,” Paul said.

Peggy Merriss replaced John McDonough, Sandy Springs’ founding city manager, as interim city manager starting Aug. 3.

“That is a significant amount of money for any one person, no matter how much you trust them, to be able to wield,” Paul said.

Paul also expressed the importance of reducing spending in order to boost transparency to the public.

“One of the things we try to do is be transparent with our spending,” Paul said. “This will …make [the smaller contracts] much more visible to the public.”

The original contract spending limit introduced for council consideration was $75,000, which officials say was recommended by McDonough and from looking at other cities’ policies. However, at the meeting, Paul asked that the council instead adjust the number to $99,000. The new figure came from the advice of Merriss, according to city Communication Director Sharon Kraun.

“In conferring with our interim city manager, the $99,000 figure was suggested as it closely aligns with [the new state law],” Kraun said.

The council also updated the bank signatures required for the city’s bank accounts, replacing one of the authorized signers, McDonough, with City Clerk Coty Thigpen until a permanent city manager is hired.

At the Aug. 6 meeting, the mayor also took a moment to formally welcome Merriss as interim city manager. “[Merriss] is officially on board. She’s been around here for a couple weeks being the understudy and now she’s the star player,” Paul said. “So we want to welcome you, Peggy, to our midst and look forward to working with you on a daily basis.