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charterThis website features the latest news and announcements about the work of the Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission. If you wish to share a comment with the Commission or to ask a question, send an email to: saratogaspringscharter@gmail.com.

charterThe charge of this Commission is to, in accordance with section 36 of the Municipal Home Rule Law, review the current city charter, propose such revisions or amendments as the Commission may deem appropriate, make a report to the public, and submit any such revisions or amendments to the electors of the city at a public referendum. By law, the review takes place every ten years.

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Position Paper on Internal Audit Concern

Note: The author, Jeff Altamari, is a retired Fortune 500 executive financial officer. He is a graduate of Cornell University and also holds an M.S. degree in accounting. He began his career with an international ‘Big Eight’ accounting firm and was a member of the NYS Society of CPAs as well as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Following public accounting and before beginning his career in industry he served as an internal auditor for the U.S. Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C.

SARATOGA SPRINGS CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION

POSITION PAPER ON INTERNAL AUDIT CONCERN

April 15, 2017

Jeffrey Altamari, Commission Member

The Charter Review Commission (CRC) commenced its journey with a blank canvas. It agreed to structure its final recommendations based on extensive research, empirical analysis, and solicitation of input from elected officials, City Hall employees, and community stakeholders. In addition to this rational approach to its mission, a major strength of the CRC was the variety of professional backgrounds and skills brought to the task by its members. The identification of a major structural financial weakness in the current commissioner form of government was raised by one of the financially experienced CRC members.

The significant structural weakness in question is that of internal audit. It became evident to the CRC during its first reading of the current charter (The Charter). The Charter enumerates in ‘Title 4. The Commissioner of Finance’, that the Commissioner of Finance (COF) shall have and exercise the following powers:

4.B. collection of all tax revenues, utility fees and other monies

4.C. disbursement of funds

4.D. execution of internal audits

4.E. custodianship of City funds

4.F. maintenance of financial records

4.G. oversight of budget process

4.H. certifier of City payrolls

Bringing all of these powers under one commissioner’s jurisdiction when they are also endowed with authority over the internal audit function is a highly dysfunctional and risky institutional flaw.

Sound financial management relies on the principal of segregation of duties. In short, this means a person or persons should not have the authority and responsibility for more than one of the following:

  • collection of funds
  • depositing of funds
  • custodianship of funds
  • disbursement of funds
  • recording of fund transactions in books and records
  • performance of bank reconciliations

In many small companies, not-for-profits, and governmental agencies, major embezzlement events are most often linked to the lack of segregation of duties. Good old Dorothy or Tom was the friendliest person on staff and worked tirelessly for years. It turns out they graciously agreed to perform all of the financial functions in their organization, as noted above. It is unfortunate that many small public and private organizations do not have the staffing levels necessary to guarantee proper segregation of duties. In these entities, where one individual may often be responsible for several fund related activities, a higher risk of error and theft exists.

It is not unusual in large organizations, be they publicly held companies, not-for-profits, or governmental organizations, for the CFO, Controller or Comptroller, to have ultimate responsibility for the collection, custodianship, and disbursement of funds as well as the recording of these transactions into the books and records. That said, sound financial checks and balances may be established within the financial organizations they control.  Departments collecting funds are manned by personnel only dedicated to that task. Bank accounts, i.e. cash custodianship, are carefully controlled by treasurers. Accounts payable departments are run by personnel who have no access to bank accounts or collections staff.  They can only make payments on pre-audited and approved customer invoices. The accounting departments make all entries on the books for collections and disbursements and perform bank reconciliations, independent of collections, treasury or accounts payable. This is how well-run financial groups in organizations operate and achieve adequate checks and balances through segregation of duties.

There are overarching requirements essential for insuring continuously adequate financial checks and balances. Before enumerating these, it is imperative to note that change is constant. All organizations are continuously bombarded by changes in leadership, changes in personnel, changes in laws, changes in the market place, changes in transactional volume, changes in technology including IT software and cyber-risk, changes in tax bases, changes in domestic and global economic conditions, changes in the political climate, etc. The larger and more complex the organization, the more arduous is the task of keeping strong financial controls in place. The following are values and tools used by successful organizations:

  • Insuring top-notch professional financial leadership at the senior level as well as in middle-management roles and throughout the financial organization
  • Establishing an engaged and competent Audit Committee to frequently review check and balance status
  • Requesting external financial auditors (CPAs) to issue a Management Letter at the end of each engagement
  • Employing a robust Internal Audit function answerable to the Audit Committee of the board of directors or governing body. The Internal Audit function is independent of all the internal entities which it examines

Before examining the current Saratoga Springs commissioner form of government through the prism of these essential protections, it is important to make the distinction between external and internal audits. There are common misperceptions that need to be clarified.

External audits by certified public accountants are ubiquitous in commercial, not-for-profit, and governmental life. Investors, banks, public finance agencies, taxpayers, etc. require assurance that the entities in which they have an interest (financial or otherwise) are truthfully disclosing their financial condition. External auditors (Certified Public Accountants in the US) who are licensed through professional exams, continuing education, and experience, apply Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) to determine if an entity’s financial statements are in compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Standards (GAAP). Their work culminates in an independent auditor’s report in which they opine on their conclusion. A public audit is not a census of all transactions for a given period. Neither does its audit scope typically include a search for fraud. An audit is most frequently executed by sampling financial transactions and performing analytical reviews. If an organization has demonstrated strong internal financial checks and balances, the CPA can reduce the need for sampling transactions. Conversely, if internal financial controls are weak, more sampling or total review of certain types of transactions may be required.

In addition to its independent auditor’s report, public accountants issue a Management Letter, or internal control letter, at the conclusion of an audit. In this letter, the CPAs communicate the status of an entity’s internal controls. The auditor details areas in the organizations where a misstatement in the financial statements would likely occur. A common comment identified in an internal control letter is a lack of separation of duties. This comment indicates that during a financial statement audit, an auditor identified job duties that should be separated between two or more individuals or departments but were not. The Management Letter is intended to summarize material (major) weaknesses and significant deficiencies in an entity’s internal financial checks and balances and may include recommendations on how to improve them.

The Management Letter is considered by many laypersons to be a sufficient review of checks and balances. This is a huge misconception. Public accountants are generally in and out of a client’s offices once or twice a year. They are focused on the big picture. The Management Letter may be very helpful identifying where role separation can strengthen checks and balances to help prevent a major financial misstatement. It may also identify a major control weakness regarding liquid assets, particularly cash. That said, there are a myriad of financial, operational, risk management, and compliance related areas that are rarely if ever touched in an external public audit.

The definition of internal auditing put forth by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is, “Internal auditing is an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, internal control, and governance processes.”

Risk Management – With respect to the evaluation of risk management, the internal audit function can advise senior management if emerging risks are being adequately assessed and planned for by the organization. Just a few examples of these might include the adequacy of insurance programs, provisions for a cataclysmic natural event, protective measures against a major cyber breach, vetting and financial requirements of major suppliers, etc.

Internal Control – With respect to internal control, the internal auditor’s role is to provide reasonable assurance that core objectives are being achieved including effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of financial and management reporting at all levels of the organization (not just the consolidated financial statements of the entity), compliance with laws and regulations, and safeguarding of assets. Examples of focus might include evaluation of the adequacy of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, separation of duties within the accounting department of a bureau issuing permits, productivity inside of a department that serves external constituencies (e.g. customers or taxpayers), conflicts of interest between employees and outside contractors, adequacy of procedural controls intended to safeguard the tools and supplies in a vehicle service garage, the filing of new employee forms to the Federal government as a result of a new disclosure law, etc. While internal auditors are responsible for helping management insure there is adequate internal control at an organizational level, their audit scopes can include any level of the organization. Internal auditor’s audit programs can be written in a highly specific and detailed manner. By comparison, the external auditors are principally focused on the fairness of the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. The CPA may focus on an account payable by matching the purchase order, receiving document and invoice to insure the financial liability is properly stated. The internal auditor, in addition to this same test, may examine the travel and entertainment expenses for the procurement department in relation to specific suppliers, compliance with the internal rules surrounding the solicitation of quotes from suppliers by the procurement department, compliance with internal rules used to establish certified suppliers for the organization, an intense review of the financial condition of large suppliers whose financial failure would cause serious harm if they could not meet their obligations, investigation to determine if suppliers are being used who are domiciled or are effectively controlled by nations under embargo by the US State Department, etc. CPA examinations, again, are focused on the big picture: fair statement of consolidated financial statements and major observed internal control weaknesses. The amount of time spent by CPAs at the client’s site performing an audit simply do not allow them to go into the level of detail the internal auditor enjoys. Nor are many of the internal auditor’s concerns necessarily germane to the external auditor’s mission. Productivity levels, for example, in a particular department, aren’t normally included in CPA audit programs.

Governance – Governance is the policies, processes and structures used by an institution’s leadership to direct activities, achieve objectives, and protect the interests of diverse stakeholders in a manner consistent with ethical standards. Internal audit is considered one of the “four pillars” of governance, the other pillars being the Board of Directors (or its equivalent), management, and the external auditor. A primary focus area of internal auditing as it relates to governance is helping the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors (or equivalent) perform its responsibilities effectively. This may include reporting critical management control issues, suggesting questions or topics for the Audit Committee’s meeting agendas, and coordinating with the external auditor and management to ensure the Audit Committee receives effective information.

While internal auditing was ubiquitous in American commercial, not-for-profit, and government life for years, the passing of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Act) placed it firmly in the spotlight. Section 404 of the Act required that senior management develop and monitor procedures and controls for making the now required assertion about the adequacy of internal controls over financial reporting, as well as the required attestation by an external auditor of management’s assertion. This sent shockwaves throughout the land. Previously, management’s assertions involved the fairness and completeness of its financial statements. Now it had to make an assertion on the adequacy of internal controls as well. Not only that –  the external auditors had to sign off on the assertion being made by management. Suddenly US institutional life was rocked by skyrocketing costs as a mad scramble ensued for additional resources to meet the deadlines for the internal control assertions demanded by the Act.  External public accounting firms immediately staffed up, external consulting firms claiming to be expert on the Act sprang up. Institutions added accounting staff to accommodate concerns over segregation of duties. And, finally, the internal audit staffs across the land were called to the rescue. Where internal audit functions did not previously exist they were often added.

Following the initial years of the Act, once the ground-rules were understood and the hysteria had passed, the role and value of the internal audit function became permanently established. While the Act had set a high and sudden bar for quality internal control, institutions began to recognize that a permanent highly trained internal audit function had enormous value. It improved efficiency and reduced risks and, thus, improved profits and/or cost effectiveness. More importantly, it helped to insure high ethical standards by constantly examining compliance with internal and external policies and laws. The internal audit profession grew dramatically after 2002 because it was good for institutional health.

Before returning to the review of the internal audit function and the Saratoga Springs Commissioner form of government, a point should be made regarding the position of the internal audit function in the organization. While internal auditors are not independent of the organizations that employ them, independence and objectivity are a cornerstone of the IIA professional standards. Professional internal auditors are mandated by the IIA standards to be independent of the activities they audit. This independence and objectivity are achieved through the organizational placement and reporting lines of the internal audit department. In fact, in the US, in publicly traded companies, internal auditors are required to report directly to the Board of Directors or the Audit Committee, and not management except for administrative purposes.

The financial management of the city of Saratoga Springs is seriously flawed by virtue of its Charter. Returning to previously noted requirements for creating and protecting an environment of strong internal control, the Commissioner form of government, which the city embraces….

  • Lacks any provisions or procedures in its Charter mandating a high level of professional competency in its financial leadership at any level of the financial organization. The highest level of financial leadership, that of Commissioner of Finance, is left to the electorate, with absolutely no vetting requirements. Any resident citizen can potentially serve. The power to appoint a deputy (S2.6) establishes no requirement for financial professionalism or competency
  • Has no provision for an independent Audit Committee
  • Places the internal audit function completely under the control of the COF who has total oversight and responsibility for all transactions and custodianship of the City’s funds
  • With respect to the Charter requirement for a Finance Policy & Procedure Manual (S4.2.1) and amendments thereto, does not expressly call for review by a competent financial professional

If Saratoga Springs were a publicly traded corporation with annual revenue of $45 million, its shareholders would quickly vote out of office a Board of Directors that had the audacity to offer this structure as a means of insuring strong internal financial control, proper risk management, and robust governance. Unfortunately, even if an experienced financial professional were elected to the Commissioner of Finance office, the problem could not be resolved. The fact that the COF selects who and what gets internally audited completely taints the internal audit function and renders it practically superfluous. What guarantee is there that fraud or defalcation would ever be detected if a corrupt Commissioner controlled the internal audit function? What guarantee is there that the internal audit function could not be wielded as a political weapon against other commissioners under this model? What guarantee is there that internal audits themselves could meet the standards required by the IIA when they might be led by individuals with no formal internal audit training or experience?

The fact is that the city of Saratoga Springs is a ‘public’ entity. It is owned by its citizens and taxpayers, and they have a strong interest and right to competent financial management. This point is not made to disparage any individual Commissioner, past or present. It simply is the way the Charter is written. It’s interesting to note that this version of the Charter, completed in 2001, precedes the debacle of the implementation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 creating a huge awareness for strong internal financial controls.

As discussed, the wind of change and its challenges continuously beat against the door of City Hall. Competent professional leadership is needed to proactively manage the City’s financial destiny. Notwithstanding the opinion of many laypersons, the annual external financial audit gives little assurance that the concerns of internal control, risk management and governance are being met. These can only be assured through a competent and professional internal audit function reporting to an independent committee at the top of the organization. This is why the CRC has proposed in its draft charter that a professional internal audit function report to a Finance Committee made up of City Council members who have legislative but absolutely no executive or administrative responsibility. It is also the reason the CRC calls for a competent heavily vetted City Manager with professional financial experience to manage the executive branch and be continuously subjected to professionally administered internal audits. The citizens of Saratoga Springs deserve nothing less.

 

Current draft charter: following our April 25 meeting

On April 25, the Commission met to continue refining language of its proposed charter. Here is the latest draft at just 24 pages:

Under authority conferred by the Constitution of the State of New York, we, the People of Saratoga Springs do ordain and establish this Charter as the Law of the City to protect and enhance the health, safety, environment and general welfare of the people; to enable municipal government to provide services and meet the needs of the people efficiently; to allow fair and equitable participation of all persons in the affairs of the City; to provide for transparency, accountability and ethics in governance and civil service; to foster fiscal responsibility; to promote prosperity and diversity; and to address the broad needs of a changing society.

Article I

GENERAL PROVISIONS

    • Title and Purpose

This Charter, together with all amendments, if any, shall provide for and constitute the form of government of the City of Saratoga Springs, New York, and shall be known as the “Charter of the City of Saratoga Springs.” This Charter provides for the separation and balance of legislative and executive functions and responsibilities in order to promote clarity, efficiency and responsibility within City government. In addition, the Charter is intended to implement the City’s full home rule authority in accord with New York State law.

    • City Status, Power and Duties

The City shall be and remain a municipal corporation and shall exercise all of the rights, privileges, functions and powers conferred upon it by this Charter and state law. Coordinately, the City shall be subject to all duties and obligations imposed by local laws not inconsistent with this Charter and state law, and enjoy all necessary incidental powers to duly exercise the duties and obligations so imposed.

    • Boundaries

The City’s geographic boundaries shall continue to be and remain intact, as established prior to the adoption of this Charter; existing boundaries are hereby ratified and confirmed and may subsequently be altered or expanded pursuant to applicable law.

Article II

CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR

2.01. City Council Constituted.

The City Council shall be composed of the Mayor and six Members elected by the voters of the City at large

2.02. Acting Mayor.

At the first meeting in each year, the Mayor shall appoint, with the approval of the City Council, one Council Member to serve as Acting Mayor during the absence or disability of the Mayor, and who, if a vacancy occurs in the office of the Mayor, shall serve as Mayor until the office is filled as provided in this Charter.

2.03. Meetings.

  • The City Council shall hold regular meetings on the first and third Tuesday evenings in each month, and at such other times as  it shall designate. Meetings shall be conducted in compliance with the New York State Open Meetings Law. The Mayor shall preside at all meetings of the City Council. In the proceedings of the City Council, the Mayor and each Member present shall have a vote.  A quorum of four Members present shall be required to hold a meeting.
  • B.  Special meetings. The Mayor, or, in the Mayor’s absence, the Acting Mayor, or any four Council Members may call special meetings by notice in writing or by electronic means served personally upon or transmitted electronically to the Members of the City Council, or left at their usual places of residence at least 24 hours before the time of the meeting.

2.04. Mayor.

The Mayor shall be elected Citywide and shall serve as the presiding officer of the City Council. The Mayor shall

  • Be a voting Member of the City Council and shall attend and preside at meetings of the City Council;
  • Represent the City in intergovernmental relationships;
  • Appoint, with the advice and consent of the City Council, the members of all regulatory boards and commissions, including without limitation, the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Design Review Commission, the Comprehensive Plan Committee, Civil Service Commission, Ethics Board, Housing Authority, Special Assessment Districts, Board of Assessment Review, and the City Center Authority;
  • Present an annual State of the City message,
  • Appoint Members and officers of City Council standing committees as may be created by the Council;
  • Assign, subject to the consent of the City Council, agenda items to committees;
  • Create such advisory committees and appoint members thereto as deemed necessary in the public interest.
  • Chair the Finance Committee of the City Council;
  • Appoint a Charter Review Commission, beginning with the second U.S. Decennial Census results following the adoption of this Charter and upon receipt of the results of each subsequent U.S. Decennial Census;  and
  • Perform other duties as may be specified by the City Council.

The Mayor shall be recognized as the head of City government for all ceremonial purposes, but the Mayor shall have no administrative duties, other than those outlined herein.

2.05. Finance Committee.

  

The Finance Committee of the City Council shall review all budgets of the City prior to City Council approval; monitor the City’s financial affairs on an ongoing basis; and must approve all appropriations prior to action by the City Council. The Finance Committee shall consist of all members of the City Council, the Mayor as chair.

2.06 Appointment and Evaluation of City Manager.

The City Council shall appoint and hire a qualified person to the office of City Manager in accordance with Section 3.01. The City Council shall annually evaluate the performance of the City Manager.

2.07 Code of Ethics

The City Council shall adopt a Code of Ethics to guide the actions of elected and appointed City officers and employees. The Code of Ethics adopted may require periodic disclosures by elected and appointed officials so long as such requirements are consistent with Article 18 of the General Municipal Law of the State of New York. The City Code of Ethics shall be updated as needed pursuant to  Article 18 the General Municipal Law.

2.08. Prohibitions

  • Holding Other Office.  Except where authorized by law, no Council Member shall hold any other elected public office, including the office of County Supervisor, during the term for which the Member was elected to the City Council.  No Council Member shall hold any other City office or City employment during the term for which the Member was elected to the City Council.  No former Council Member shall hold any compensated appointive office or employment with the City until one year after the expiration of the term for which the Member was most recently elected to the City Council.
  • Appointments and Removals.  Neither the City Council nor any of its Members shall in any manner control the appointment or removal of any City administrative officer or employee whom the City Manager or any subordinate of the City Manager is empowered to appoint, but the City Council may express its views and fully and freely discuss with the City Manager anything pertaining to appointment and removal of such officers and employees.
  • Interference with Administration.  Except for the purpose of inquiries and investigations under this Section, the City Council or its Members shall deal with City officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the City Manager solely through the City Manager. Neither the City Council nor its Members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately.

2.09. Vacancies; Forfeiture of Office; Filling of Vacancies.

  • Vacancies. The office of a Council Member shall become vacant upon the Member’s death, resignation or removal from office or forfeiture of office in any manner authorized by law.
  • Forfeiture of Office.  A Council Member shall forfeit that office if the Council Member:
  • Ceases to reside in the City;
  • Is convicted of a felony during the Member’s term of office; or
  • Fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings of the City Council without being excused by the City Council.
  • Filling of Vacancies. If a vacancy shall occur in the office of Mayor or Council Member other than by expiration of term, that position shall be filled at the next general election, pursuant to the requirements of the NYS Election Law.  Pending such election, the City Council shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy until a successor is elected and assumes office.

2.10 Judge of Qualifications.

The City Council shall be the judge of the election and qualifications of its Members, and of the grounds for forfeiture of their office.  In order to exercise these powers, the City Council shall have power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and require the production of evidence.  A Member charged with conduct constituting grounds for forfeiture of office shall be entitled to a public hearing on demand, and notice of such hearing shall be published in one or more newspapers of general circulation in the City at least one week in advance of such hearing and on the City’s website or other appropriate media as designated by the City Council

2.11. Investigations.

The City Council may make investigations into the affairs of the City and the conduct of any City department, office or agency and for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, and require the production of evidence.  Failure or refusal to obey a lawful order issued in the exercise of these powers by the City Council shall be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 for each day that the failure continues, or by imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both.

2.12. Finance and property.

The City Council shall have the control of the finances and property of the City, except as otherwise provided in this Charter.

2.13. Audits.

  • The City Council shall provide for an independent annual audit of all City accounts and may provide for more frequent audits as it deems necessary.  Such audits shall be carried out in accordance with Section 5.16.
  • The City Council shall provide for an internal audit of all City accounts and may provide for more frequent audits as it deems necessary.  Such audits shall be carried out in accordance with Section 5.17.

2.14. Legislative powers.

The City Council shall be the legislative, policy-making and appropriating body of the City. It shall have all the powers and perform all the duties now or in the future conferred by this Charter or imposed by law upon the legislative body of a City.

2.15. Legislation.

The City Council shall have the power to enact local laws, ordinances, and resolutions consistent with the US Constitution and the constitution and laws of the state, for purposes including but not limited to:

  • The preservation of the order, peace, health, safety and welfare of the City, its residents and visitors.
  • The benefit of trade, commerce and economic development within the City.
  • The protection of the quality of life within the City.
  • The protection of the business and property interests   within the City.
  • The government of the City and the management of its business.

2.16. Actions requiring enactment by ordinance or local law.

  • The City Council shall, by ordinance or by local law:
  • Establish rules or regulations and provide for fines or other penalties for violations thereof.
  • Levy taxes;
  • Grant, renew, or extend a franchise;
  • Regulate the rate charged for its services by the holder of a franchise;
  • Convey or lease, or authorize the conveyance or lease, of any lands of the City; or
  • Amend or repeal any ordinance or local law previously adopted.
  • These actions are in addition to other acts required by law or by specific provision of this Charter.

2.17. Enactment of Ordinances.

All ordinances enacted by the City Council shall be in writing and shall contain an enactment clause beginning with the words “Be it ordained. . .”

Any Council Member may introduce ordinances at any City Council meeting. The City Council shall pass no ordinance until the City Council has held a public hearing thereon. Such public hearing shall be on at least five days’ public notice, and such notice shall be published at least two times in the City‘s designated official newspaper or newspapers and on the City’s website or other appropriate media as designated by the City Council with a link to the proposed ordinance.  Such notice shall indicate that a copy of the introduced ordinance shall be available for public review in the City Clerk’s office.

2.18 Enactment of local laws.

All local laws enacted by the City Council shall be in writing and shall contain an enactment clause beginning with the words, “Be it enacted . . . .”  Local laws shall be enacted in accordance with the Municipal Home Rule Law.

2.19. Recording and proof.

All ordinances and local laws shall be recorded in books kept by the City for that purpose. The Charter, minutes of the City Council, and any ordinance or local law or part thereof may be proven by a copy certified by the City Clerk under the Seal of the City or by a book or pamphlet printed by authority of the City.

2.20. Publication and effective date.

All ordinances shall be published once after their passage and shall take effect the day after such publication unless otherwise specified in the ordinance. The City Council may publish a summary of each adopted ordinance as an alternative to publication of the full text of each adopted ordinance, except when publication of the full text of the ordinance is specifically required by laws of the State of New York or the United States. Each published summary of an ordinance shall briefly describe the subject matter of the ordinance and its purpose and shall state when and where a complete text of the ordinance shall be available for public review. All local laws shall be published and filed after passage in accordance with § 27 of the Municipal Home Rule Law.

2.21. Repeal and amendment.

No ordinance, or part thereof, shall be amended or repealed except by ordinance or local law. No local law, or part thereof, shall be amended or repealed except by local law.

2.22. Licensing occupations.

If an ordinance of the City prohibits the carrying on of any occupation or business without a license, the City Council shall fix the fee for such license; prescribe whether or not a bond shall be given by the licensee; prescribe the mode of licensing and the necessary qualifications of the licensee;  approve or disapprove the application, and if approved, direct the City Clerk to issue the license.

2.23. Violation of ordinances and local laws.

  • Penalty. Any ordinance or local law enacted by the City Council may provide that any person convicted of any violation of the same may be punished by imposition of a fine or by imprisonment, or both.
  • Type of violation; civil penalty. Any ordinance or local law enacted by the City Council may provide that any person violating such ordinance or local law shall be guilty of a violation or of a misdemeanor or shall be liable to pay to the City a sum therein named as a penalty, to be recovered in a civil action. If no provision is made in any ordinance or local law as to the effect of a violation thereof, every violation thereof shall be a violation.
  • Injunction relief. The City may maintain an action to restrain by injunction a violation of any ordinance or local law of the City Council or order of the Health Officer, notwithstanding that such ordinance, local law, or order may provide a penalty for such violation.

2.24. Succession to Office During Disaster

  • Mayor. If, as a result of a disaster, as defined by § 20 of the Executive Law of the State of New York, the office of Mayor becomes vacant, or the Mayor by reason of disability or absence from the City shall be prevented from attending to the duties of the office of Mayor, and the Acting Mayor as the designated Council Member, is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office of Mayor or shall be absent from the City, the City Council, or if vacancies have reduced its Membership to less than a majority, then a majority of the remaining Members of the City Council shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy until such time as the Mayor, Acting Mayor, or designated Council Member is able to assume the duties of the office of Mayor.
  • City Manager.
  • If, as a result of a disaster, as defined by § 20 of the Executive Law of the State of New York, the office of City Manager becomes vacant, or the City Manager by reason of disability or absence from the City shall be prevented from attending to the duties of the office of City Manager, and the Acting City Manager is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office of City Manager or shall be absent from the City, the City Council, or if vacancies have reduced its Membership to less than a majority, then a majority of the remaining Members of the City Council shall appoint a Department Head to fill such vacancy until such time as the City Manager or Acting City Manager is able to assume the duties of the office of City Manager.
  • In the event that no Department Head is selected pursuant to the process outlined in the paragraph above, the City Council shall appoint an appropriate individual to serve in such capacity
  • Other City Offices. If, as a result of a disaster, as defined by § 20 of the Executive Law of the State of New York,  any City officer except the Mayor or Council Member shall be unable to discharge the duties of office, the City Manager shall appoint a suitable person to discharge such duties during such disability, unless otherwise prohibited by law. The person so appointed shall have and exercise all the powers and discharge all the duties and be subject to all the provisions of law applicable to such officer, and shall receive such salary as shall be fixed by the City Council.
  • 2.25. Compensation of Mayor and Council Members.
  • Annual salaries shall be established by Local Law in conformance with New York State Law.  Initial salaries for the City Council commencing January 1, 2020, shall be established by the City Council prior to the end of its term December 31, 2018.

Article III

CITY MANAGER

3.01. Appointment; Qualifications; Compensation.

Appointment, term, compensation, qualifications. The City Council shall conduct the search and oversee the hiring and appointment of the City Manager, who shall be competent to execute the duties of the position. The City Manager shall be appointed solely on the basis of education, professional credentials and experience in the accepted competencies and practices of local government management.  The City Manager shall be qualified by possessing a master’s degree with a concentration in public administration, public affairs or public policy and five years’ experience in an appointed managerial or administrative position in municipal government. The City Manager shall serve an indefinite term at the pleasure of the City Council and the City Council shall fix the compensation. The appointment of the City Manager may be accompanied by an agreement between the City and the City Manager, to be approved by the City Council and the City Manager that further defines the terms of the appointment. The City Manager need not be a resident of the City or State at the time of appointment, but may reside outside the City while in office only with the approval of the City Council. After an initial six-month probationary period, the City Manager’s performance shall be evaluated by the City Council and the Mayor and on an annual basis thereafter.

3.02. Removal.

If the City Manager declines to resign at the request of the City Council, the City Council may suspend the City Manager by a resolution approved by the majority of  the total Membership of the City Council. Such resolution shall set forth the reasons for the suspension and proposed removal. A copy of such resolution shall be served immediately upon the City Manager. The City Manager shall have fifteen days in which to reply thereto in writing and, upon request to the City Council, shall be afforded a public hearing, which shall occur not earlier than ten days nor later than fifteen days after such hearing is requested. After the public hearing, if one is requested and held, and after full consideration, the City Council by a majority vote of its total Membership may adopt a final resolution of removal. The City Manager shall continue to receive full salary until the effective date of a final resolution of removal.

3.03. Acting City Manager.

By letter filed with the City Clerk, the City Manager shall designate a City employee to exercise the powers and perform the duties of City Manager during the City Manager’s temporary absence or disability. The City Council may revoke such designation at any time and appoint another officer of the City to serve until the City Manager returns.

3.04 Powers and Duties of the City Manager.

The City Manager shall be the chief administrative and fiscal officer of the City, responsible to the City Council for the management of all City affairs placed in the City Manager’s charge by or under this Charter. The City Manager shall have the authority to:

  • Appoint and suspend or remove all City employees and appointive administrative officers provided for-, by-, or under- this charter, except as otherwise provided by law, this charter or personnel rules adopted pursuant to this charter. The City Manager may authorize any administrative officer subject to the manager’s direction and supervision to exercise these powers with respect to subordinates in that officer’s department, office or agency;
  • Direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the City, except as otherwise provided by this charter or by law;
  • Represent the City in the collective bargaining process as leader of the management team in City negotiations with collective bargaining units;
  • Develop and implement a program of annual evaluation of all City employees in their respective positions to the extent consistent with collective bargaining agreements.  The evaluations will examine the actual performance of each employee, areas of strength and weakness, and potential for career advancement.  Evaluations will be administered for City employees including heads of all departments and all administrative units;
  • Attend all City Council meetings. The City Manager shall have the right to take part in discussion, but shall not vote;
  • See that all laws, provisions of this charter and acts of the City Council, subject to enforcement by the City Manager or by officers subject to the manager’s direction or supervision are faithfully executed;
  • Prepare and submit the annual budget and capital program to the City Council and implement the final budget approved by the City Council in accord with Article V, Financial Management, of this Charter;
  • Submit to the City Council and make available to the public a complete report on the finances and administrative activities of the City as of the end of each fiscal year;
  • Make such other reports as the City Council may require concerning operations;
  • Keep the City Council fully advised as to the financial condition and future needs of the City;
  • Make recommendations to the City Council concerning the affairs of the City and cooperate with the City Council in developing policy by providing information requested by the City Council;
  • Provide staff support services for the Mayor and Council Members;
  • Assist the City Council to develop long-term goals for the City and strategies to implement these goals;
  • Encourage and provide staff support for regional and intergovernmental cooperation, to the extent feasible;
  • Promote partnerships among City Council, staff and citizens in developing public policy and building consensus in the community; and
  • Perform such other duties as are specified in this charter or may be required by the City Council.

Article IV

DEPARTMENTS, OFFICES AND AGENCIES

4.01 General Provisions

  • Continuation of Existing Departments. As of the effective date of this Charter, all existing departments, offices and agencies established in the previous Charter and Code of the City of Saratoga Springs shall continue unless or until modified by the City Manager
  • Creation of Departments. The City Manager  in consultation with the City Council may establish, modify or abolish City departments, offices, or agencies in addition to those set forth in this Charter or the Code of the City of Saratoga Springs, and may prescribe the functions of all departments, offices, and agencies.

Direction by City Manager. All departments, offices and agencies under the direction and supervision of the City Manager shall be administered by an officer appointed by and subject to the direction and supervision of the City Manager. With the consent of the City Council, the City Manager may serve as the head of one or more such departments, offices or agencies, or may appoint one person as head of two or more of them.

4.02 Personnel System

Personnel system. All appointments and promotions of City employees, other than heads of departments and agencies and their deputies and senior managers, shall be made solely on the basis of merit and fitness demonstrated by examination or other evidence of competence, and according to the provisions and requirements of the Civil Service Law.

4.03 Legal Officer

  • Appointment. The City Attorney shall be appointed by the City Council from a list of at least two qualified candidates nominated by the City Manager.
  • Powers and duties. The City Attorney shall be the legal adviser for all officers, agencies, boards and commissions of the City. The City Attorney shall prosecute and defend all actions and proceedings by and against the City and every department thereof, and perform such other professional services relating to the City as the City Manager or City Council may direct. The City Attorney shall prepare all legal papers, contracts, deeds, and other instruments for the City and all City officers, departments, agencies, boards, and commissions.

4.04. City Clerk

The City Manager shall appoint a City Clerk with the advice and consent of the City Council who shall serve at the pleasure of the City Manager. The City Clerk shall give notice of City Council Meetings to its members and the public, keep the journal of its proceeding, and perform such other duties as are assigned by this Charter or by the laws of New York State.

4.05 City Assessor

The City Manager shall appoint a City Assessor with the advice and consent of the City Council who shall serve at the pleasure of the City Manager.   The City Assessor, who shall be certified or become certified as provided by NYS regulation,  shall estimate the value of real property within the City;  provide property owners with fair and accurate assessments; inspect new construction and major improvements to existing structures to ensure accurate property descriptions and valuations; approve and track property tax exemptions, including the School Tax Relief (STAR) exemptions; attend all public grievance hearings of the Board of Assessment Review and present evidence in support of the municipality’s assessments; file annual report on assessment changes with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance;  and perform such other duties as are assigned by this Charter or by the laws of New York State.

4.06. County Supervisors

There shall be two Supervisors elected at large at each City election to serve on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors.   At the first election under this Charter, candidates shall run for one Supervisor position having a term of two years and one Supervisor position having a term of four years.  Thereafter, Supervisors shall be elected for terms of four years.   Supervisors may attend meetings of the Council and may report to and seek advice from the Council on matters affecting County or City business.

Article V

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

5.01 Fiscal Year

The fiscal year of the City shall begin on the first day of January and end on the last day of December.

5.02. Budget content.

The City Manager shall be responsible for preparing and administering a comprehensive City Budget. The budget shall comprise an Operations Budget, a Capital Budget, a Debt Service Budget and all subsidiary budgets of City entities. No budgeted funds shall be spent unless appropriated by the City Council

5.03 Budget preparation. The City Manager shall oversee preparation, completion, and submission of the City Budget according to the timeline set forth herein [and summarized in Appendix A.1]

  • The City Manager shall, on or before August 1 of each year, send a call letter to all City departments and entities establishing budget parameters for the upcoming year. The call letter shall solicit from the heads of all departments and other City entities their budget requests for the ensuing year. Every proposed budget or amendment thereto submitted by any agency, board, commission, or other entity of the City of Saratoga Springs shall be submitted in accordance with the provisions of this section of the Charter.
  • Budget requests shall be submitted to the City Manager on or before September 15. The City Manager shall transmit copies of the requests of each department or other entity to the City Council, as they are received, for their information and comment.
  • The City Manager shall submit a detailed estimate of the amount of income from all sources, exclusive of taxes, and a detailed estimate of the amount of tax required to be levied to defray all expenses and liabilities of each City department or entity for the ensuing fiscal year.

5.04 Budget submission. The City Manager shall submit a Comprehensive Balanced Budget to the City Council at the first regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council in October of each year.

5.05 Budget content. The proposed Comprehensive Balanced Budget submitted to the City Council by the City Manager shall contain:

  • Budget message. The City Manager shall prepare a budget message in writing that shall explain the proposed budget both fiscally and programmatically; outline proposed financial policies of the City for the ensuing fiscal year; describe important features of the budget; indicate any major changes from the current year’s budget; and  summarize the City debt position and include such other material as the  City Manager deems appropriate.
  • Financial plan. The budget shall be accompanied by a preliminary financial plan to include all income and expenditures of all City funds projected monthly for the upcoming fiscal year.
  • C.  Comprehensive Balanced Budget. The Comprehensive Balanced Budget shall include the following:
  • Operations Budget: proposed expenditures for current operations during the ensuing fiscal year, detailed by offices, departments, and agencies in terms of their respective work programs and functions.
  • 2.  Capital Budget: proposed capital projects recommended by the City Manager for the ensuing fiscal year. . No capital projects  shall be recommended for the ensuing year that have not been included in the City’s approved six-year capital program.  Capital projects shall be prioritized.
  • Debt Service Budget: complete, comprehensive accounting of the total debt for which the City has any direct or indirect obligation. The budget shall itemize any new debt issuance planned for the ensuing fiscal year.
  • Subsidiary budgets: each utility or entity owned or operated by the City shall provide detailed income and expenditure information appended to the Budget.

5.06 Public notice and hearings. Upon receipt of the proposed budget from the City Manager, the City Council shall publish in the official City newspaper or newspapers and on the City’s website or other appropriate media as designated by the City Council a summary of the budget and a notice stating:

  • Times and places where copies of the budget message and Comprehensive Balanced Budget are available for inspection by the public.
  • Time and place, not less than one week after such publication, for at least two public hearings on the proposed budgets, the first of which shall be held on or before November 1. The summary and notice shall be placed on file at the City Clerk’s office to be available for public review.

5.07 Budget adoption. In the period from November 1 through November 30, the City Council Finance Committee shall continue to review and adjust the proposed budget and shall hold the second public hearing after all adjustments have been agreed on. After public hearings, the Mayor, as Chair of the Finance Committee, shall certify that the total of proposed expenditures shall not exceed the total of estimated income in the Comprehensive Balanced Budget.  Following the Mayor’s certification, the Finance Committee may recommend the budget to the City Council and the City Council may adopt the budget by resolution. In amending the budget, the City Council or the Finance Committee may add or increase programs or amounts, and may delete or decrease programs or amounts, except expenditures required by law, judgments against the City, or for debt service.

The City Council shall adopt the budget on or before November 30 each year. The total of proposed expenditures shall not exceed the total of estimated income in the budget adopted by the City Council. In the event that the City Council fails to adopt a budget by said date, the proposed Comprehensive Balanced Budget presented to the City Council by the City Manager shall become the budget for the ensuing fiscal year. Adoption of the budget shall constitute appropriations of the amounts specified therein as expenditures from funds indicated. The property tax therein proposed shall constitute the levy.

5.08  Budget Administration. On or before December 31 each year, the City Manager shall prepare the financial plan that shall project expenditures and income, month-by-month, for the entire fiscal year. Copies of the aforementioned plan shall be available to the public for review at the City Clerk’s office during normal business hours. The City Manager shall be responsible for administration of the City Budget to ensure, to the extent feasible, that the budget remains balanced throughout the fiscal year.

5.09 Maintaining a balanced budget. If at any time during the fiscal year it appears probable to the City Manager that ongoing costs and revenues available will result in budgetary imbalance, the City Manager shall report this to the City Council without delay. The City Manager shall indicate the estimated  imbalance and any recommended remedial actions to be taken by the City Manager and/or the City Council.  The City Council may, by resolution, reduce one or more appropriations so as to maintain budget balance.

5.10 Mid-year financial report. The City Manager shall submit to the City Council, a mid-year written financial report. The report shall include a comparison of estimated and actual income and expenditures to date. This report shall be forwarded to the City Clerk’s office and shall be available for public review.

5.11 Budget amendments. If, during the fiscal year, the City Manager certifies to the City Council that there are available for appropriations revenues in excess of those estimated in the budget, the City Council may make supplemental appropriations for the year, by resolution in an open public meeting and with written justification regarding the requested supplemental appropriation, up to the amount of monies the City Manager certifies available.

5.12 Emergency appropriations. To meet a public emergency affecting health, property, or public safety, the City Council may make emergency appropriations by unanimous action. If there are no available unappropriated revenues to meet such emergency, the City Council may, by emergency ordinance, authorize issuance of emergency notes that may be renewed from time to time. Emergency notes and renewals of any fiscal year shall not be paid later than the last day of the fiscal year succeeding that in which emergency appropriation was made.

5.13 Transfers of monies. Budget transfers of monies shall require certification of availability by the City Manager. Transfers of less than 10% of a budget line item do not require City Council approval. Those transfer requests that exceed 10% of the amount of a budget line item appropriation shall be accompanied by written explanation. Transfers for purposes of implementing contract agreements regarding personal services shall be permitted, notwithstanding the ten-percent limitation, on approval by the City Council. The City Council shall approve no transfer of monies from- or to- an account for payroll or employee benefits unless such transfer has been submitted and approved separately from other transfers. Transfer requests shall be submitted by the close of business on Thursday before the next City Council meeting. Those received afterwards will be reserved for the following meeting unless there is an emergency certified in writing by the City Manager. Transfer requests requiring City Council approval will be distributed prior to the meeting for review by the City Council.

5.14 Prohibited Payments. It shall not be lawful for any City employee or public official to incur or contract any expense or liability for or on behalf of the City, unless the City Council has made an appropriation concerning such expenses. No payment shall be made or obligation incurred against any allotment or appropriation except and unless the City Manager first certifies that sufficient funds are or will be available to cover the claim or meet the obligation when it becomes due and payable. Any authorization of payment or incurring of obligation in violation of the provisions of the Charter shall be void.

5.15 Capital Program.

The City Manager shall be responsible for preparing the City’s Six-Year Capital Program. It shall be submitted to the City Council for adoption no later than the first City Council meeting in May. The program shall consist of Capital projects and capital equipment, listed by Department and priority. (Listed in Appendix A.2)

  • Six-year Capital program preparation. In preparing a proposed six-year capital program, the City Manager shall consult with the City Council.
  • Six-Year Capital Program Presentation. On or before the first regularly scheduled City Council meeting in May each year, the City Manager shall present to the City Council and the public the proposed six-year Capital Program, highlighting capital requests for the upcoming fiscal year to be included in the City’s annual Capital Budget. Two public hearings shall be scheduled prior to the City Council’s final adoption of the six-year Capital Program. The City’s annual Capital Budget for each upcoming fiscal year shall be derived from projects included in the City’s adopted six-year Capital Program. The proposed Capital projects to be included in the City’s upcoming annual Capital Budget shall be available in writing in the City Clerk’s office at least five days prior to the public hearings.
  • Six-Year Capital Program Adoption. The City Council shall adopt an updated six-year Capital Program annually. Two public hearings shall be held prior to final adoption. No capital project shall be authorized unless it is included in the Six-Year Capital Program adopted by the City Council. A capital project may be added or deleted at any time by affirmative vote of  5/7 of the City Council, only after public hearing and publication of information supporting the requested action.
  • D.  Annual Capital Budget.  The City Manager shall incorporate Capital projects recommended for the ensuing budget into the City’s annual Capital Budget.  Each capital project shall contain the following information:
  • A description of the proposed project and its estimated total cost.
  • The proposed means of financing, indicating the amount proposed to be financed by local taxes, and the amount, if any, estimated to be received from the Federal government, the State government, any other government, nongovernment or private entity, or any other source of funds procured for the project.
  • The proposed method of financing, indicating the use of reserve funds, grants, transfers, current taxes, notes, bonds, or any other type of debt obligation or similar devices to be used to finance each project.
  • The expected useful life of the capital project, the cost of annual maintenance and upkeep, and other expected operational and personnel-related costs.
  • A general summary description of the project and comments and recommendations of any department, board, officer, or agency affected by the proposed project.

Section 5.16 Independent Annual Audit.

The city council shall provide for an independent annual audit of all city accounts and may provide for more frequent audits as it deems necessary. An independent certified public accountant or firm of such accountants shall make such audits. Such audits should be

performed in accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards and Generally Accepted Governmental Auditing Standards.  The annual audit shall be accompanied by a management letter and the city council shall coordinate a response, which shall be made available for public view not later than 45 business days after the issuance of the letter.

The Council shall designate no fewer than three of its members to serve as an Audit Committee. This Committee shall:

(1) Lead the process of selecting an independent auditor;

(2) Direct the work of the independent auditor as to the scope of the

annual audit and any matters of concern with respect to internal

controls; and

(3) Receive the report of the independent auditor and present that report to the council with any recommendations from the Committee.

The council shall, using competitive bidding, designate such accountant or firm annually, or for a period not exceeding five years, but the designation for any particular fiscal year shall be made no later than 30 days after the beginning of such fiscal year. The standard for independence is that the auditor must be capable of exercising objective and impartial judgment on all issues encompassed within the audit engagement. No accountant or firm

may provide any other services to the city during the time it is retained to provide independent audits to the city. The city council may waive this requirement by a majority vote at a public hearing. If the state makes such an audit, the council may accept it as

satisfying the requirements of this section.   

Section 5.17 Internal Audit.

The city council shall also be responsible for maintaining an internal audit function. A professional internal auditor may either be hired directly by the council or outsourced through a professional audit firm. The internal auditor will establish and execute a cycle of random financial and operational audits and report the results directly to the council. The council may also direct the internal auditor to examine areas where it may have financial or operational concerns.

5.18 Construction with NYS Local Finance Law.

Nothing contained herein shall prevent the City from providing from sums made available for such purposes, pursuant to the NYS Local Finance Law, for payment of any expense necessitated by casualty, accident, or unforeseen contingency arising after the budget is passed.  This section shall not apply to- or limit authority conferred pursuant to- Local Finance Law for monies to be collected by special assessments for local improvements.

Article VI

ELECTIONS and STAGGERED TERMS OF OFFICE

6.01.  Elections

Elections for City offices positions shall be conducted in accordance with the New York State Election Law.

6.02. Staggered Terms

At the first election under this Charter, the Mayor and six Council Members shall be elected. The Mayor shall serve for a term of four years. The three Council Member candidates receiving the greatest number of votes shall serve for terms of four years, and the three Council Member candidates receiving the next greatest number of votes shall serve for terms of two years.  Thereafter, the Mayor and all Council Members shall be elected for terms of four years.  (For future elections: Head to head election?  Or top vote-getters?)  For future elections, each Council position shall be contested separately, with the ballot indicating “Council Member A”, “Council Member B” and “Council Member C” as the positions to be contested. The candidate receiving the greatest number of votes for each position shall be elected.

6.03. Term Limits.

  • No Council Member shall serve more than three full, elected four-year terms of office, totaling twelve years, except as otherwise specified herein. Should an elector of the City be appointed by the City Council to fill a vacant City Council seat and subsequently win that City Council seat in a general election held pursuant to this paragraph, said member shall not serve longer than three full, elected four-year terms of office.
  • No Mayor shall serve more than three full, elected four-year terms of office, totaling twelve years, except as otherwise specified herein.

Article VII

TAX DISTRICTS; BONDING LIMITS; CONTRACTS; ASSESSMENTS, TAXES, AND USER FEES

7.01. Tax Districts.

The City shall consist of three separate tax districts designated as the City Tax District, the Inside Tax District, and the Outside Tax District.

  • City Tax District. The City Tax District shall consist of all territory within the boundaries of the City as they may exist at any given time.
  • Inside Tax District. The Inside Tax District shall consist of that portion of the City within the boundaries of the Village of Saratoga Springs as they existed in 1915, together with such other territory outside said village boundaries that may in the past have been added by law to the Inside Tax District or that may hereafter be added by law to the Inside Tax District. The territory now comprising the Inside Tax District shall comprise all of the land designated Inside Tax District as it exists at adoption of this Charter and any territory hereinafter duly designated by the City to become part thereof. The description of the Inside Tax District shall be set forth in the Administrative Code of the City.
  • Outside Tax District. The Outside Tax District shall consist of all land within the City Tax District that is not included in Inside Tax District boundaries.
  • Revision of tax districts. The City Council shall have the power to adopt local laws to modify the boundaries of the Inside Tax District and the Outside Tax District to include in the Inside Tax District described portions of the Outside Tax District. Each shall be contiguous with the then-existing Inside Tax District.

7.02. Limitation on Amount of Local Indebtedness Which May be Contracted.

The limitation on the amount of indebtedness which may be contracted by the City for any purpose or in any manner, including existing indebtedness, shall be determined pursuant to § 104.00 of the New York State Local Finance Law, except that such limitation shall not exceed 2% of the City’s average full valuation.

7.03. Limitations on amount to be raised by real estate taxes.

Notwithstanding the provisions of the New York State Constitution, Article VIII, § 10, the amount to be raised by tax on real estate in any fiscal year, in addition to providing for the interest on and the principal of all indebtedness, shall not exceed an amount equal to 1% of the average full valuation of taxable real estate in the City, reduced by the amount to be raised by tax on real estate in such year for payment of interest on and redemption of certificates or other evidence of indebtedness described in Subdivisions A and D of § 5 of Article VIII of the New York State Constitution, or renewals thereof. In all other respects, the provisions of the New York State Constitution, Article VIII, § 10, including the definition of “average full valuation,” shall remain in full force and effect. This law shall specifically exclude special assessment for specific purposes.

7.04. Apportionment of taxes.

 

  • Inside Tax District apportionment. Except as herein provided, the Inside Tax District shall pay the expense, excluding administrative expense, of construction and maintenance of highways, public works, lands, buildings (except City Hall), lighting, fire and police protection, charity and health therein, and the expense of the waterworks, water carriers, sewers, and sewage disposal plant extending into the Outside Tax District.

 

  • Outside Tax District apportionment. Except as herein provided, the Outside Tax District shall pay the expense, excluding administrative expense, of construction and maintenance of highways (except bridges having a span of five feet or more), charity, health, and schools therein.

 

  • City Tax District apportionment. Except as herein provided, the City Tax District shall pay the expense, excluding administrative expense, of construction and maintenance of bridges in the Outside Tax District having a span of five feet or more, machinery and tolls for use in the Outside Tax District or removal of obstructions caused by snow, and of City Hall and all other City expenses not otherwise provided for.

 

  • Administrative expenses. The administrative expenses of the City shall be apportioned by the City Council on the several tax districts according to benefits received therefrom as the City Council may from time to time determine, after publication of notice of hearing and a hearing thereon. When made, apportionment shall be the basis for subsequent levies until changed after a new hearing.

 

  • Additional provisions. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section or any other special act or local law, 1/2 the cost of street improvements shall be paid by the City Tax District, and 1/2 shall be paid by the Inside Tax District. One-half the cost of items associated with highways and highway miscellaneous shall be paid by the City Tax District, and 1/2 shall be paid by the Outside Tax District. Notwithstanding other provision of this section or other special act, ordinance, or local law, 3/4 the cost of fire and police protection shall be paid by the City Tax District.
  • Highway districts. The Inside Tax District and the Outside Tax District shall be separate highway districts.

7.05. Public works and local improvements paid by tax.

The City Council may, with or without petition, order any public work or local improvement and provide for payment of such work by tax on the City Tax District or the Inside or Outside Tax District, or apportion it to two or more tax districts, as the City Council may determine.

7.06. Tax Collection

  • Tax Payments. County and City taxes for the several tax districts shall be due and payable, without penalty, each year as follows: first quarter on or before March 1; second quarter on or before June 1; third quarter on or before September 1; fourth quarter on or before December 1. All school taxes shall be assessed, levied, and collected in the manner provided for in Education Law, Real Property Tax Law and other statutes made and provided.
  • County and City taxes for the several tax districts shall be paid by times set forth, and received without penalty if paid within 30 days. Thereafter a penalty of 6% shall be imposed and added. Thereafter, an additional 1 1/2% per month up to a maximum of 15% per annum shall be imposed and added.

All water and sewer levies, assessments, and charges shall be paid by times set forth; such amounts so paid shall be received without penalty. If not paid on the due dates, a penalty of 6% shall be imposed. Any water and sewer levies, assessments, and charges unpaid after 90 days shall be added to the next quarterly assessments of water and sewer charges. Penalties of all outstanding balances shall be charged at the same percentage provided herein.

  • Discounts. A discount of 2 1/4% shall be allowed for the payment of the four quarterly current City and county taxes on or before March 1 in each year; no other discount shall be allowed.

7.07. Water and sewer rates.

  • For water and sewer usage, the City Council shall each year establish water and sewer rates, within the territory serviced by the waterworks and the sewer district, on properties therein, whether occupied or vacant, based on the amount of metered water used or usage as estimated or by other applicable charges.
  • The City Council shall establish water and sewer rates in accordance with ordinances adopted under the laws of the State of New York made and provided. Payment of water and sewer charges shall be in accordance with ordinances adopted under the laws of the State of New York made and provided. The City may, within its discretion and from time to time, enact ordinances, regulations, and rules to establish water and sewer rates and other related charges and to set forth regulations, ordinances, rules, and obligations concerning water and sewer use.
  • All water and sewer rates and related charges for water and sewer shall be the personal obligation of the landowner and/or buildings and the user thereof for charges related thereto. The land and/or buildings that receive water and sewer and that benefit therefrom shall be subject to a lien for any unpaid water and sewer bills and related charges. The City Manager shall establish this lien by preparing a statement, on or before December 1 each year, of all unpaid water and sewer and other related charges for that year. The City Manager shall cause a notice of the amount of this lien to be sent to the person in whose name the property is listed and that benefited from the water and sewer. The City Manager shall send such notice to the address listed. Delinquent sewer and water charges and related charges not paid by December 31 shall be levied as part of general real property tax collection; it shall be a lien and obligation thereon in the same manner and same force and effect as the general real property tax lien.

7.08. Contracts.

No contract for public work exceeding $20,000 and no purchase contract exceeding $10,000 shall be made, except as hereinafter provided, without a published notice inviting bids according to plans and specifications prepared by the department having the matter in charge and on file in the office of the City Manager.

All such contracts shall be let to the lowest responsible bidder who complies with specifications and furnishes satisfactory performance bonds.

The City Council may waive this section by an   affirmative vote of five members.

7.09. Claims for damages; place of trial of actions; proceedings.

  • Dangerous, defective conditions. No civil action shall be maintained against the City for damages or injuries to persons or property sustained in consequence of any street, highway, bridge, culvert, sidewalk, or crosswalk being out of repair, unsafe, dangerous, or obstructed, or in consequence of the existence of snow or ice thereon, unless written notice of the defective, unsafe, dangerous, or obstructed condition, or the existence of the snow or ice, was actually given to the City Manager and there was failure or neglect within a reasonable time after such notice to repair or remove the defect, danger, or obstruction complained of, or to cause snow and ice to be removed, or for the place to be made otherwise reasonably safe.
  • Index record. The City shall keep an index record, in a separate book, of all written notices that it receives of the existence of such defective, unsafe, dangerous, or obstructed condition, or of such snow or ice. The record shall state the date of receipt of the notice, the nature and location of the condition stated to exist, and the name and address of the person from whom notice is received.
  • Other claims; notice requirements, limitations, venue of actions. All claims against the City for damages or injuries to persons or property, or invasion of personal or property rights of every name and nature whatsoever shall be governed by the provisions of Article 4 of the General Municipal Law. The place of trial of all actions or proceedings against the City or its boards or officers shall be in the County of Saratoga.
  • Compromise of claims. The City Council shall have the power to pay, compromise, or settle any such claim which may be made against the City for damages, provided such claim is presented within the time and in the manner prescribed in this Charter. The sum or sums so expended shall be included in the amount to be raised by tax for general purposes.

Article VIII

TRANSITION AND SEVERABILITY

8.01. Repeal of 2001 Charter.

The Charter of the City of Saratoga Springs, enacted in 2001 and as amended from time to time, is hereby repealed. All local laws, ordinances, and resolutions of the City Council and all regulations and bylaws of boards, commissions, or bodies of the City previously adopted and in effect as of the adoption of this Charter, including the City Code, shall continue in full force and effect, except to the extent that such local laws, ordinances, resolutions, regulations, and bylaws have been repealed, modified, or superseded in their application to the City by the adoption of this Charter.

8.02. Effective date of the Charter.

This local law shall become effective immediately upon approval by public referendum and filing with the Secretary of State in the manner provided by applicable law, The Mayor and City Council shall be elected at the general election of 2019, to assume office on January 1, 2020.  An administrative code may be adopted and amended at any time subsequent to the approval and adoption of this Charter.

8.03. Civil Service Rights Continued; Status of Certain City Officers Previously Elected or Appointed.

The civil service status and rights of all City employees and their beneficiaries, including but not limited to those with respect to retirement and social security, shall not be affected by this Charter. Nothing contained in this Charter shall affect the term of office of any City officer or Member of any board or commission who shall have been elected or appointed prior to the effective date of this Charter.

8.04. Classified Service.

All positions in all departments and offices shall be in the classified service, except those held by the following: (i) elective public officers; (ii) department heads, their deputies and designated managers and confidential employees; and (iii) Members of all boards and commissions.

8.05. Departments, Offices, and Agencies.

  • Transfer of Powers. If a City department, office or agency is abolished by this charter, the powers and duties given it by law shall be transferred to the City department, office or agency designated in this charter or, if the charter makes no provision, designated by the City Council.
  • Property and Records. All property, records and equipment of any department, office or agency existing when this charter is adopted shall be transferred to the department, office or agency assuming its powers and duties, but, in the event that the powers or duties are to be discontinued or divided between units or in the event that any conflict arises regarding a transfer, such property, records or equipment shall be transferred to one or more departments, offices or agencies designated by the City Council in  accordance with this charter.

8.06. Continuity of Authority; Completion of Unfinished Business.

The performance of functions pursuant to the provisions of this Charter shall be deemed to constitute a continuation of such functions for the purpose of succession to all rights, powers, duties and obligations attached to such functions. Proceedings or other business undertaken or commenced prior to the effective date of this Charter may be conducted and completed by the City officer or department responsible for such proceedings or other business under this Charter.

This Charter shall not be deemed to invalidate any obligations previously issued by the City or by any of its commissions, boards or agencies, and such obligations shall be and remain binding obligations of the City. In the event that any obligation shall have been issued in anticipation of the issuance of bonds by the City or by any of its commissions, boards or agencies, the City is hereby empowered to issue such bonds as legal and binding obligations of the City.

8.07. Schedule

  • irst Election.  At the time of its adoption, this charter shall be in effect to the extent necessary in order that the first election of Members of the City Council may be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this charter and the State Election Law.  The first election shall be held at the time of the General Election in November 2019.  The then-serving Commissioner of Accounts shall prepare and adopt temporary regulations that are applicable only to the first election and designed to insure its proper conduct and to prevent fraud and provide for the proper counting of ballots.
  • Time of Taking Full Effect.  This charter shall be in full effect for all purposes on and after the date and time of the first meeting of the newly elected City Council as provided herein.
  • First City Council Meeting.  On the first day of January, 2020, following the first election of Council Members under this charter, the newly elected Members of the City Council shall meet at City Hall, 474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs:
  • For the purpose of appointing or considering the appointment of a City Manager or acting City Manager, and choosing, as it may see fit, one of its Members to act as temporary clerk pending appointment of a City Clerk pursuant to Section 4.04; and
  • For the purpose of adopting ordinances and resolutions necessary to effect the transition of government under this charter and to maintain effective government during that transition.
  • Initial expenses.  The initial expenses of the City Council under this Charter, including such expenses as may be incurred during 2019, such as the expense of recruiting a City Manager, shall be paid by the City on vouchers signed by the Mayor.

8.08. Severability.

If part of any provision of this Charter shall be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such adjudication shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder of such provision, but shall be confined in its operation to the clause, sentence, paragraph, section or article thereof directly involved in the proceeding in which such adjudication shall have been rendered.

8.09 Transition to the new Charter.

  • Charter Transition Task Force.  A Charter Transition Task Force shall be established not later than sixty (60) days after approval of the amended charter by the voters. The Charter Transition Task Force shall be comprised of nine members:  five representatives appointed by the Mayor and one representative appointed by each of the four commissioners.  The Charter Transition Task Force shall prepare a detailed work plan addressing, at a minimum the following transition issues:  re-allocation of the specific duties of each commissioner and deputy commissioner to new or existing positions; establishment of recruitment and selection timetable for City Manager; recommendation of competitive salary ranges for the position of City Manager; recommendation to the City Council of amounts necessary to adequately fund reasonably foreseeable new positions in the fiscal year beginning January 1, 2020, and estimation of any other expenses necessary to include in the 2020 fiscal year budget to fund a smooth transition to the new Charter.
  • Deputy Commissioners. The existing deputy commissioners or their designees shall continue to serve in their department management functions until the City Manager’s appointment is effective, at which time they shall serve at the pleasure of the City Manager.  The Charter Transition Task Force shall recommend adequate funding of these positions in the 2020 fiscal year budget.

Agenda for April 25

The Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission will meet at City Hall on Tuesday, April 25.

7-7:15pm Public Comment

7:15-8:00  Discussion of Financial Analysis of Proposed Charter

8:00-8:30pm Discussion of Transition Plans for Proposed Charter

8:30-9pm  Discussion of Audit provisions of proposed charter

9 pm Adjourn

Saratoga Today: City Official Supports New Charter

Saratoga Today Illustor

BY SARATOGA TODAY |

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Chris Mathiesen

 

 

As many may have heard, I have decided not to run for a fourth term as Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety. Serving on the City Council and overseeing the operations of the police, fire/EMS, code enforcement, parking enforcement and animal control divisions over nearly five and a half years has been a great experience. However, I do believe that self-imposed term limits are a good thing. Such powerful positions ought not be held by one person for too long. Examples of office holders who should have given up their positions after a reasonable time are abundant.

I also have to admit that continuing to maintain my professional career in dentistry, while at the same time serving as Commissioner of Public Safety, is tiring. Carrying out these dual roles has actually become progressively more difficult each year, as city government requires more and more attention. Hopefully, this November our citizens will finally acknowledge that it is time for a dramatic change in city government. Responsibility for the day-to-day management of local government should not be entrusted to five politicians who, by definition, cannot be fully engaged in their roles.

Professional management and coordination of all city departments is seriously lacking under the present Commission form of government. The combination of legislative and executive duties that each of the five members of our City Council must take on are often contradictory and should be considered mutually exclusive. Polling of city employees who actually have to work under this system show that overwhelmingly they feel that the present form of government creates inefficiencies and obstacles.

It is time to discard the archaic Commission form of government as nearly every other municipality in the country has. Three different groups over the past eleven years have studied the problem and they have each come to this conclusion. The two most recent Charter Reform committees have concluded that a city of our size would best be served by a City Manager running the daily government activities and a separate legislative body composed of elected citizens whose duties and responsibilities would be much more reasonable than is the case with our present City Council.

I have observed that the great majority of our citizens do not know what each member of our present City Council actually does. They don’t understand how the Commission form of government works. It is hard to fathom what they have been basing their decisions on when they went to vote in city elections every two years. It is time for Saratoga Springs to have separation of powers with a legislative body composed of a broad array of residents whose talents and abilities will better guide this great community through the 21st century.

Please vote to change the City Charter on November 7.

Chris Mathiesen 

Commissioner of Public Safety 

Agenda for April 6

Meeting of the Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission

City Hall Council Chambers

7:00-7:15     Public Comment

7:15- 7:30    Discussion of Current Charter Review subcommittee report by BK Keramati

7:30-8:30    Discussion of Comments and Issues raised at Public Forum and from Community Emails and contacts

8:30 -9:00 Discussion of Outreach

9:00            Adjourn

Gazette: Saratoga residents weigh in on charter proposal

Man who chaired a charter commission years ago shares thoughts
Saratoga residents weigh in on charter proposal
John Sullivan speaks at Wednesday’s charter commission forum in Saratoga Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHER: ERICA MILLER

 

John Sullivan chaired a commission that got a new charter passed in the city of Oswego in 1977, served as mayor of that city 10 years later and has lived in Saratoga Springs for four years.

Naturally, he had some ideas for the Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission, which presented its recently drafted charter proposal to about 100 residents who packed into the Saratoga Springs Public Library Community Room for a forum on Wednesday night.

Sullivan said the charter he helped write strengthened the mayor’s power and lengthened the term from two to four years. He served one four-year term starting in 1987, during which time he started Harborfest, a popular summertime festival still going today, he said with a bit of pride.

“To me, when people vote for mayor, they want to know that that person’s going to make sure the streets are plowed, they want to know if someone’s going to suggest a budget that needs a tax increase, that someone’s accountable. The buck has to stop on someone’s desk,” he said after speaking at the forum.

Sullivan questioned where the buck would stop under the council-manager form of government being proposed by the 15-member charter group appointed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen last June. The city manager would be hired — and could also be fired — by a seven-member City Council, which would include the mayor. The manager would be responsible for preparing and administering the budget and overseeing the city’s finances, among other duties, according to the 24-page charter draft, which can be viewed online at www.saratogacharter.com. The mayor position, now part-time, would also be upgraded to full-time.

“I’ve got a lot to say about this topic, and I hope I have that opportunity,” Sullivan said.

Interestingly enough, Sullivan’s comments during the meeting followed the Saratoga Springs review group chairman Bob Turner’s promise that he would never run for office in Saratoga Springs in response to being asked how much the city manager and mayor would earn under the new form of government. Turner, a Skidmore College political science professor, said that would be up to the City Council under the current charter draft.

“I think I was always going to run,” Sullivan admitted.

Turner did provide his own personal estimate for what a mayor might earn, of $60,000 to $70,000, while vice chairman Pat Kane floated $125,000 as an estimated salary for a city manager.

“I think that’s a political decision [that] our elected officials should make,” Turner stressed.

The role of the mayor was a recurring topic among speakers — about 20 residents provided feedback and asked questions at the forum, which started with a 45-minute presentation by Turner and other commission members on the draft released this week.

Under the proposal, the mayor’s term would be extended, from two years to four years, and the six council members would also serve four-year terms. That’s an extension of the two-year terms now served by the four commissioners, who now make up the council but whose positions would be eliminated if voters approve the charter proposal during a referendum planned for November. If ushered in by the voters, the new form of government would take effect Jan. 1, 2020, with the first election in 2019.

George Bergmann, a Saratoga Springs resident since 2015 who lived in Alexandria, Virginia, for 34 years, questioned the need to make the mayor full-time. He said Alexandria had a much larger population and a part-time mayor under a council-manager form of government with six council members.

“All of our issues were addressed,” he said. “In our 34 years, we never had a problem.”

Turner said that need was determined from talking to seven past mayors of Saratoga Springs, who all said it’s a full-time job, at least.

Charles Brown, the city’s Democratic committee chairman, responded to statements made by the commission members that the proposed form of government would make it easier for more people to run for office in the city.

“I’m very concerned that we’re opening the door for potential candidates that ran a good campaign but do not understand the depth of the decisions they have to make,” he said.

Some residents questioned the number of councilors proposed, suggesting four councilors and a mayor would be enough. Turner said the commission wasn’t bent on a seven-member governing body.

“It has to be odd, we know that,” he said.

Sullivan commended the commission members for moving the vote to November, after originally planning a special election for May 30 — an idea that was rejected by the City Council.

“There’s a lot more time, and I would hope a lot more consideration to be given,” he said.

Turner said all of the night’s comments would be taken into consideration, and encouraged people to send more via email to saratogaspringscharter@gmail.com.

“It is not written in stone,” he said, referring to the current charter draft.

Saratogian: Charter Review Commission holds first forum after revealing draft charter

Bob Turner presents the city charter draft Wednesday
Bob Turner presents the city charter draft Wednesday  
Joseph Phelan jphelan@digitalfirstmedia.comBob Turner presents the city charter draft Wednesday

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.>> Residents had their first opportunity to discuss the city charter draft Wednesday night at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. Charter Review Commission President Bob Turner presented the 15-member commission’s present work. The Commission released a charter draft March 26 in hopes to complete the final draft by May 30 to place in front of voters in the November general election.

In the charter draft, a council-manager form of government calls for a city council to be made up of six council members and a full-time mayor. The idea of a full-time mayor resonated with a number of residents, including a man named George who lived in Alexandria, VA that had a city manager just like this charter draft proposes. George said the council-manager form of government worked greatly, but the mayor served part-time.

Turner said that, according to mayors the commission has interviewed, the job beyond full-time.

“Saratoga is a big league city,” Tunrer said. “We’re a really important city. We have a lot of outside stakeholders, a lot of people are coming through and that there needs to be someone there to, as someone said to us it’s really important to have someone here to pick up the phone if something calls, and it shouldn’t be a deputy mayor, it shouldn’t be someone else. It should be the mayor itself.”

Turned also said the mayor would have responsibilities including, but not limited to, appointing members to boards and committees with city council consent, creating advisory committees, presenting State of the City addresses..

Turner and fellow commission member Pat Kane estimated a full-time mayor would range anywhere from $40,000-$70,000, but Turner said the commission believed it wasn’t their responsibility to include a salary in the charter.

“The salary and benefits of the mayor and the city council are to be determined by whoever we elect in November,” said Turner. “Let’s assume the charter passes…they have to set what the salaries are going to be by Dec. 31, 2018. This is what most cities do. They don’t put it in there. The US Constitution doesn’t establish [salary]. I have a sense what I think those numbers should be but it’s not for me to do that. I think that’s a political decision. I think it’s a policy decision and I think it’s something our elected officials should make and not us.”

Kane said a city manager would cost about $125,000-$150,000 a year, but the commission would provide examples of how similar sized cities pay city managers in the coming months.

In the charter draft, seven city council members would serve four-year teams with a maximum of three terms.

Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee Chariman Charles Brown said he had concerns about the legislative side of the charter, specifically the seven council members serving four year terms.

“I’ve very concerned that we’re opening a door for potential candidates that we’ve elected based on a good campaign but are not committed,” said Brown. “…If we give them a four-year cycle, we are living through four years with those kind of decisions.”

Turner said the seven spots would give more representation to voters.

According to the draft, the city council members would no longer have responsibility for administering departments like they did under the commission form of government. The city manager would take over those responsibilities. The commission provided a city manager’s biography from the City of Elk Grove to demonstrate what type of background the city manager would have. She had obtained a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The commission recommends the city manager applicants have at least five years serving as a city manager in a similar sized city.

“They have to be a trained expert and they have to be appointed by a majority of the city council, it’s not just the mayor’s appointment,” said Turner. “This is really important because it assures that the city manager is responsive to the city council as a whole.”

The charter review commission asks anyone who wants to comment or ask a question to send an email to saratogaspringscharter@gmail.com.

To view the 24-page charter, click here.