Saratogian: Charter Review Commission votes on mayor and city council salaries

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.>> The city’s Charter Review Commission voted on mayor and city council salaries and added an amendment aiming to strengthen the ethics provisions under the charter Monday night.

Under the proposed charter, the mayor will receive $40,000 and benefits, while the city council members will receive $14,500 and no medical benefits.

“We reviewed the New York Conference of Mayors City Salary Data from 49 cities and found that the average salary is $50,000 for mayors and $11,139 for City Council members,” said Turner. “Our analysis shows it is very unusual for part time city council members to receive taxpayer funded health coverage.”

Turner said it’s even more unusual for the medical benefits to continue after they have left office.

Times Union: Saratoga Springs commission approves measure on mayor, city council salaries

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city Charter Commission amended its draft charter to include future salaries for the mayor and city council.

Bob Turner, chair of the commission that is rewriting the city charter, said the salary amendment approved Monday will set the salary at $40,000 with medical insurance paid in full for the mayor and at $14,500 for city council members with no insurance. Currently, the mayor and city council members receive an annual salary of $14,500 plus medical insurance valued up to $18,000 per year for their part-time positions.

The proposed charter indicates that salaries for the 2020 city council and mayor would be determined by the 2018 city council and mayor. Plans for the salaries will only take effect if the proposed charter, which calls of a government run by a city manager, is approved by voters in November. If so, the city manager’s salary would be determined by the city council.

“A number of citizen have voiced their concern with giving a city council a blank check to set their salaries,” Turner said. “We felt we needed to put a salary in there. We just felt that the city council shouldn’t be setting their own salary.”

The amendment would also allow for pay increases, but no increase would take effect until after an election cycle.

“That way they can be held accountable by the voters,” Turner said.

The 15-member volunteer commission determined the salaries after reviewing the New York Conference of Mayors City Salary Data from 49 cities. It found the average salary for a mayor is $50,000 and $11,139 for city council members. The data also showed that it is unusual for part-time city council members to receive health insurance.

“Right now, a city council member, if they serve for 10 years, will get health insurance for life,” Turner said. “A lot of people said they don’t want to pay for that.”

The charter commission also voted to add an amendment to strengthen the ethics provisions in the proposed charter. The amendment would encourage that all city government activity to be conducted in public “to the greatest extent feasible.”

“Saratogians value transparency in local government,” Turner said.

The commission approved two more amendments on the charter draft, which the group has developed for the past 13 months.

The commission changed how the city’s county supervisors will be elected. Instead of going head-to-head, the charter called for a staggered vote and to extend the office term from two years to four. Turner said this would encourage more candidates to run.

They also added language on what would require City Council members to forfeit their seat: moving from the city, being convicted of a felony or failing to attend three consecutive meetings.

In addition to the amendments, the commission approved the fully amended proposed charter, which will go to the voters in the form of a referendum during November’s general election.

A draft of the charter can be viewed at https://saratogacharter.com.  Monday’s night’s meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Music Hall at City Hall, Broadway.

Gazette: Saratoga charter proposal would cut benefits for council

 

Would remain intact for mayor

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The new charter that city voters will consider in November would axe health insurance benefits for city council members, whose job under the proposal would stay part time but be less involved.

Benefits would remain intact for the mayor, whose job would become full time under the final draft approved by the city’s Charter Review Commission on Monday.

Before approving the draft, charter members voted Monday to amend the proposal to set the mayor’s salary at $40,000 with full health insurance coverage, and to pay council members $14,500 with no health insurance. Previously, the charter proposal had been silent on salaries and benefits, leaving it up to the council elected this fall to set the pay of the council that would be elected in 2019.

Bob Turner, the group’s chairman, said he proposed the change in response to feedback from residents who felt the earlier charter draft gave council members “a blank check.”

“They could get re-elected and then vote to give themselves a big salary right after,” he said. ”We weren’t entirely confident that a future council would do the right thing.”

If the charter referendum passes this fall, the new salaries would take effect Jan. 1, 2020, along with a new form of government: a council-manager system to replace the city’s century-old commission form.

Currently the mayor and the four commissioners — who make up the five-member city council — earn a salary of $14,500 plus health insurance; the benefits cost the city an estimated $18,000 annually per position, but those costs can increase over time, Turner said.

“Someone does a job for 10 years on a part-time basis and now, all the sudden, we have to pay their healthcare for life,” he said. “That’s potentially $600,000 or $700,000 dollars, and that seems excessive.”

The 15-member review group was appointed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen to study the charter last June. Under their proposal, there would be a mayor and six council-members on the council, and a manager to run the operations of the city. The city manager’s salary would be set by the City Council.

The council members would have mostly legislative roles, rather than serving the dual roles of legislators and department heads as they do now. The un-elected positions of four deputy commissioners and a deputy mayor would also be eliminated.

The commission set the proposed salaries based on data from the New York Conference of Mayors, which found the average salary for a mayor in the state to be $50,000. Council members earn $11,139 on average, according to the data.

“Our analysis shows it is very unusual for part-time city council members to receive taxpayer-funded health coverage,” Turner said.

The commission also voted Monday to strengthen the proposed charter’s language on ethics to read: “It is the policy of the City that the activities of City government should be conducted in public to the greatest extent feasible in order to assure public participation and enhance public accountability.”

“Saratogians value transparency in local government,” explained Gordon Boyd, a commission member. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

Agenda for June 26

The Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission will meet in the Music Hall on June 26, 2017.

7:00-7:15pm          Public Comment

7:15-7:20pm          Approval of Minutes, Chair Report

7:20-7:40pm         Discussion of Finance Analysis of Proposed Charter

7:40-8:00pm         Discussion and vote on proposed amendments

8:20-9:00pm          Discussion and vote on Proposed Charter

9:00pm                   Adjourn

Agenda for June 13, 2017

Meeting of the Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission

June 13, City Hall

7:00-7:15           Public Comment

7:15-7:20           Approval of Minutes, Chair Report

7:20-7:40           Discussion of May 30th Outreach meeting and subsequent education efforts

7:40-8:40          Discussion of Education Outreach Material

9 pm                 Adjourn

Inquiries: Pat Kane, 518-857-6129