Changes to the city's purchasing policy were approved last week by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen in an effort to more closely monitor spending within the numerous departments including police, fire and streets.

In addition, the board unanimously approved changes in the way new employees are hired within all city departments by assisting with the screening process both individually and collectively.

Aldermen said the new purchasing policy was necessary in order to more closely monitor each department's budget in an effort to stop an ongoing annual shortfall in the city's general fund.

The new policy was discussed numerous times in the weeks leading up to a 3-2 vote by aldermen on Sept. 10 to double city ad valorem taxes to stop the shortfall which is expected to be about $500,000 for fiscal 2013 which ends Sept. 30.

Prior to the change, city department heads could purchase items without the mayor and/or board's pre-approval, except for costly things such as a fire engine or police car.

Ward 1 Alderman Josh Gamblin had voiced concerns numerous times about the board approving the city's claims or bills after purchases had already been made.

He told aldermen he was not comfortable approving a claims docket after the money was already spent.

Aldermen debated whether to require pre-approval for purchases over $500 or raise it to over $1,000.

"You can burn a thousand dollars real quick," Mayor James A. Young said.

After a short discussion, Gamblin made a motion requiring a requisition and a purchase order signed by the mayor or an alderman before any purchases between $501 and $2,500 are made.

In addition, purchases totaling $2,501 or more must be pre-approved by the Board of Aldermen.

The Mayor and Board also discussed the city's employment procedures during last week's meeting, most of which was centered on the police department.

Earlier this month, aldermen voted 3-2 without comment to rescind a Sept. 3 order hiring a police officer, following a short time in executive session.

Ward 3 Alderman James Tatum and Ward 4 Alderman Cecil Nichols voted against the decision.

Mayor Young said at last week's meeting that aldermen could change the hiring policy, to allow for more board input.

"You can do your own background checking and get back to the department heads," Young said. "That way there are no surprises."

Gamblin agreed.

"That sounds great to me," he said.

Gamblin's motion called for applications and resumes of prospective employees to be presented to each alderman at one meeting followed by a vote at the next meeting.

The motion passed unanimously.

Capt. Dan Refre told the board that another officer had turned in his resignation, which would leave the force about seven short including the chief.

He said more resignations were expected.

"I've had word that five more are leaving," Refre said.

Aldermen expressed concerns about the officers leaving, noting that those with a year of service would seen a 63 cents an hour increase beginning Oct. 1.

"Do your best to talk them into staying," Mayor Young told Refre.