The Charter Review Commission has defined the role the mayor would play in a new form of government they plan to propose to voters May 30 — even as council members continue to debate whether to fund the special election.
Under a proposed council-manager form, which would replace the commission form in place for over 100 years, the mayor would have a “dynamic” role, the review group’s members announced in a news release. In a traditional council-manager form, the mayor is selected by the council, has the same powers as other council members and plays more of a ceremonial role.
“However, the commission felt strongly that Saratoga Springs needed a mayor who could provide dynamic leadership and rejected the weak mayor model,” the release states.
Chairman Bob Turner said very few city governments use purely strong-mayor or council-manager models, instead using a hybrid that “combines the political leadership and coalition building of the strong-mayor model with the professional expertise and administrative efficiencies of a city manager or administrator.”
The commission is also proposing the mayor be elected and the term length be extended from two years to four.
The 15-member group, appointed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen to review the city’s charter in June, has not decided whether the mayor should be full- or part-time. But Turner noted that every former Spa City mayor interviewed by the group said the job, though technically part-time, has required 50-plus hours per week.
The City Council plans to consider the Charter Commission’s request for $46,000 to cover operational costs and $37,000 in election funds at its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
A special meeting previously set by Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan to consider the funds didn’t reach a quorum this past Tuesday due to the absence of Madigan, Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. All three council members have criticized what would be the city’s first special election, calling it rushed and an added taxpayer expense and saying the referendum vote should be put on the ballot in November instead. Yepsen and Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen have supported a special election.
The Charter Review Commission contends that state Municipal Home Rule Law 36 gives it the authority to call a special election and have it be funded by the city.