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Procurement change may take another bite out of transparency

Arlington staff proposes increase in contract amount needed for County Board review

Arlington taxpayers are likely to lose another level of transparency in attempting to track the county government’s fiscal behavior.

A measure up for a vote at the June 10 County Board hearing would quadruple – from $250,000 to $1 million – the threshold of any new contracts being inked by the local government to go before the board (and therefore public).

The proposal likely will add more fuel to the fire among critics of the government like the Arlington County Civic Federation, which has contended that the government is failing the public on the transparency front.

Since 2000, any contract worth more than $250,000 for capital construction or $80,000 for professional services has required County Board action in a public session. Staff members say increasing the minimum trigger amount to $1 million would account for current and future inflation.

“Capital projects that fall below the [proposed] $1 million threshold largely consist of minor renovations and smaller maintenance projects,” staff said in a memo to County Board members. But the same memo acknowledged that nearly 40 percent of contracts that went to the County Board from the Department of Environmental Services and Department of Parks and Recreation in recent years would not have required action by board members – in a public setting – had the higher figure been in effect.