Opinion 94-21

This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

TOWN BOARDS -- Powers and Duties (purchase order system)

TOWN LAW, §110: The town board, in its discretion, may require multiple signatures for all, or a reasonable class of, purchase orders.

You ask whether there is any statutory requirement that two signatures be obtained to authorize purchase orders in excess of $5,000 in towns.

There is no State statute which expressly authorizes the implementation of a town purchase order system. Town Law, §110, however, provides that the town supervisor shall encumber applicable appropriation account balances at the close of each fiscal year, to the extent of any unpaid obligations. Section 110 further provides that "(t)he town board may provide for the encumbering of appropriation accounts at more frequent intervals". The purpose of section 110 is to prevent town officials from incurring obligations in excess of the amounts appropriated (see 1971 Opns St Comp No. 71-131, unreported). We have expressed the opinion that, to further this objective, a town board has implied authority pursuant to section 110 to provide, by resolution or local law, for a purchase order system whereby appropriate officials of town departments requesting a procurement are required to present formal requisitions so that applicable appropriations may be encumbered by the chief fiscal officer prior to the actual purchase (id.).

As noted, neither section 110 nor any other statute sets forth specific procedural requirements for the operation of a purchase order system. Typically, a purchase order is signed by the head of the town department from which the purchase order originates, or by an official designated by the department head (see Office of the State Comptroller Financial Management Guide, Subsection 8.3050). However, in the absence of any statute limiting the town board's authority, it is our opinion that the board, in its discretion, may require multiple signatures for all, or a reasonable class of, purchase orders.

November 28, 1994
Julius Graifman, Director of Purchasing
Town of Ramapo