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.