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Understanding the Proposed Charter Amendment

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On November 8, 2022, Birmingham residents will vote on a proposed amendment to the City’s charter language. The following Q&A provides information to educate the community about what they will see on their ballot and the proposed amendment.

What is a municipal charter?
A municipal charter is the basic document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the city government. 

Do proposed charter amendments go before the City Commission, Attorney General and the Governor?
Yes. The proposed charter amendment that will appear on the November ballot was unanimously approved by the City Commission on June 13, 2022. It was subsequently approved by the Attorney General and the Governor.

What is the proposed amendment to the charter language?
The proposed charter amendment would raise the ceiling threshold amount for contracts that are required to go through the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, competitive bidding, and go before the City Commission for approval.

What is the current threshold for the city’s contract approval and when was it determined?
The City Charter, Chapter VI. – CONTRACTS was amended on April 6, 1987. It requires that any contract for materials, tools, apparatus, equipment, goods and services in excess of Six Thousand Dollars ($6,000.00) must have a Request for Proposals (RFP) placed on the Michigan Inter-governmental Trade Network (MITN), competitive bidding, and Commission review and approval.

What is being proposed regarding the threshold for the city’s contract approval?
Similar to other local communities, the proposed amendment would raise the threshold for the City’s contract approval to $75,000.

How was the proposed $75,000 competitive bidding threshold determined?
The City Attorney’s office conducted a survey of approximately twenty-five (25) different communities throughout the State of Michigan to determine the threshold for approval of its legislative body. The $6,000 threshold determined more than 35 years ago is far different from $6,000 today. The proposed higher threshold is more relevant in today’s economy while also taking into account the infrequency of changes to the threshold amount. When looking at the total value of spending on purchase orders over the past 10 years, those that are below $75,000 make a up a very small percentage of the total purchase order value. Raising the threshold would greatly reduce the number of contracts that the City Commission has to approve at its meetings, but still provide the City Commission with substantial oversight over the total value of contracts being approved.
Charter Amendment Graph

How will this proposed amendment affect the city’s purchasing guidelines?
The purchasing guidelines will be updated to state the dollar limit for purchases requiring no bids or quotes, purchases where quotes must be obtained, purchases that may still need commission approval, and purchasing limits that will require additional approvals from the City Manager, City Attorney, and the Finance Director. The City Commission would review these guidelines and limits, and approve what they deem appropriate for the community.

What will I see on the November 8, 2022 ballot regarding a proposed charter language amendment?
Proposed amendments to Chapter VI. – CONTRACTS, Section 1, Section 2 and Section 3 of the City of Birmingham Charter.  The proposed amendments substitute in these sections the amount of Seventy-five Thousand Dollars ($75,000.00) for the current amounts of Six Thousand Dollars ($6,000.00) in Section 1.-[Specifications for bids.], Twelve Thousand Dollars ($12,000.00) in Section 2.-[Bids required.], and One Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($1,500.00) in Section 3.[Commission approval required.].  While the first Section relates to all City contracts, the latter two (2) Sections relate solely to contracts for public improvements.

                 Shall the proposed Amendment be adopted?  Yes: _____   No: ______

What is the current and proposed language for Chapter VI. - CONTRACTS, Section 1, Section 2 and Section 3 of the City of Birmingham Charter?
The current Chapter VI. – CONTRACTS, Section 1, Section 2 and Section 3, reads as follows:
CHAPTER VI. - CONTRACTS
Section 1. [Specifications for bids.]
The city commission may authorize the purchase of any materials, tools,
apparatus, equipment or other goods or things, the consideration or cost of which
shall exceed six thousand dollars ($6,000.00), from or in conjunction with any
state or local governmental agency without advertising or accepting bids provided
that such agency shall have first advertised and received competitive bids thereon.
Otherwise no contract shall be entered into by the city for the purchase of any
materials, tools, apparatus, equipment or other goods or things, the consideration
or cost of which shall exceed six thousand dollars ($6,000.00), until specifications
shall be prepared therefor and published advertisement made for sealed proposals
thereon, provided, however, that by a vote of five (5) of the members of the
commission elect, such contracts, the consideration for which shall not exceed
twelve thousand dollars ($12,000.00) may be made without advertisement. The
city shall in all cases have the right to reject any or all competitive bids, and shall
not be obligated to purchase from the lowest bidder.
(Amend. of 4-6-87)

Section 2. [Bids required.]
Subject to the provisions of this Charter, the city may through its departments,
officers and employees, perform public works of all kinds or it may let any such work by
contract. The city shall not, however, undertake or contract for the performance of any
public work exceeding an estimated cost of twelve thousand dollars ($12,000.00) until it
has first advertised for sealed proposals therefor; provided however, that by a vote of five
(5) of the members of the commission elect, the city itself may perform work in excess of
that cost without advertisement. The city shall in all cases have the right to reject any or
all competitive bids, and shall not be obligated to purchase from the lowest bidder.
(Amend. of 4-6-87)

Section 3. [Commission approval required.]
No public improvement costing more than one thousand five hundred dollars
($1,500.00) shall be contracted for or commenced until drawings, profiles and estimates
for the same shall have been submitted to the commission and approved by it; and the
same or a copy thereof shall thereafter remain on file in the office of the clerk subject to
inspection of the public.
(Amend. of 4-6-87)

The proposed language for Chapter VI. - CONTRACTS, Section 1, Section 2 and Section 3 reads as follows:
CHAPTER VI. - CONTRACTS
Section 1. - [Specifications for bids.]
The City Commission may authorize the purchase of any materials, tools,
apparatus, equipment or other goods or things, the consideration or cost of which
shall exceed Seventy-five Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($75,000.00), from or in
conjunction with any state or local governmental agency without advertising or
accepting bids provided that such agency shall have first advertised and received
competitive bids thereon. Otherwise no contract shall be entered into by the City
for the purchase of any materials, tools, apparatus, equipment or other goods or
things, the consideration or cost of which shall exceed Seventy-five Thousand and
00/100 Dollars ($75,000.00), until specifications shall be prepared therefor and
published advertisement made for sealed proposals thereon. The City shall in all
cases have the right to reject any or all competitive bids, and shall not be obligated
to purchase from the lowest bidder.

Section 2. - [Bids required.]
Subject to the provisions of this Charter, the City may through its
departments, officers and employees, perform public works of all kinds or it may
let any such work by contract. The City shall not, however, undertake or contract
for the performance of any public work exceeding an estimated cost of Seventy-five
Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($75,000.00) until it has first advertised for sealed proposals
therefor; provided however, that by a vote of five (5) of the
members of the commission elect, the City itself may perform work in excess of
that cost without advertisement. The City shall in all cases have the right to reject
any or all competitive bids, and shall not be obligated to purchase from the lowest
bidder.

Section 3. - [Commission approval required.]
No public improvement costing more than Seventy-five Thousand and
00/100 Dollars ($75,000.00) shall be contracted for or commenced until drawings,
profiles and estimates for the same shall have been submitted to the Commission
and approved by it; and the same or a copy thereof shall thereafter remain on file
in the office of the Clerk subject to inspection of the public.