We are astounded Gardner city employees have an aggregate purchasing power of more than $250,000 and that more than 75 employees carry purchase cards.
We are not implying any abuse is taking place. In fact, we were pleased with the quick and professional method with which our Kansas Open Records request for the purchase card log was handled.
However, we’re surprised at the sheer number of cards. It seems almost every employee has a card with credit lines ranging from $500 to $10,000.
We had expected only department heads to have cards.
Why do so many employees have the need for a purchase card?
From the looks of the expenditure report – which is available on the city’s website – it appears employees frequently run “to the store” to make purchases.  In one example, four purchases for about $7 each were made in one day at two different stores for dish soap.
We can’t imagine the amount of time it takes to reconcile these cards every month.
We can’t imagine the time away from the office employees spend making individualized purchases.
And we can’t imagine why the city apparently doesn’t buy more items in bulk to realize a savings, both cost-wise and employee time-wise.
According to city staff, the purchase cards – although they operate like credit cards – do not charge the city a fee. That’s good. However, nothing in this world is free, and we wonder what percent of the purchase local stores forfeit in the form of merchant fees. It’s usually 1 to 3 percent.
In this tight economy, that could be the amount of an utility bill.
Although it’s not costing the city in the form of a fee, it does cost the city in the form of supporting local merchants.  That’s money out of merchants’ pockets each time a sale is made.
It’s a double whammy to the city coffers when purchases are made at businesses that profit from some type of tax abatement – a policy which shifts the tax burden onto other businesses or residences. With tax abatements, the city also doesn’t receive its “fair share” of tax revenue.
Perhaps some businesses would prefer to “run a tab,” forgoing immediate POS (point of sale) payment at a 3 percent cost in exchange for a monthly itemized invoice for which they would receive full payment.
It wouldn’t hurt to ask.
Another cost-savings might be to consolidate, or eliminate, the need for so many purchase cards in favor of more centralized purchasing.
It might save money by limiting impulse purchases.