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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the 24-page charter, click here.