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Amsterdam charter changes go to voters June 4

Controller, budget process at issue

Sunday, April 7, 2013
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— Amsterdam voters will go the polls June 4 to consider changing the city’s charter.

The Common Council last week set the date for a mandatory referendum required to change the controller to an appointed position and revamp the city’s budget procedures.

The idea of hiring an experienced municipal accountant for the city, instead of electing the most popular candidate four a four-year term, has been discussed for years.

A measure to codify the change was brought to the Common Council earlier this year by Mayor Ann Thane.

The referendum also will allow voters to change the way the city develops its budget as well.

Currently, the controller’s office submits a preliminary budget that simply accounts for department head funding requests. These initial plans are often completely different from the final budget that’s developed.

“They start with just requests that are submitted on behalf of each department. It’s not a balanced budget,” Thane said.

The budget requests, compared with the prior year, often reveal that a double-digit tax increase would be required to meet them, which Thane said makes everybody “panic.”

Under the proposed plan, the mayor’s office would be charged with submitted a balanced budget to the Common Council by April 1.

The Common Council could then make changes as they see fit, instead of starting from scratch each year.

A public hearing on that preliminary budget would take place by May 15 each year, and the Common Council could then make changes to the spending plan up until June 1, according to the resolution.

In the event there’s disagreement, the mayor would be given the opportunity to outline objections to changes made by the Common Council.

With a four-fifths vote, the Common Council would hold the power to maintain changes despite the Mayor’s objections, according to the proposal.

In the event the budget isn’t adopted as established by June 30, the preliminary budget submitted by the mayor would govern the year’s finances.

Over the past several years, little if any progress gets made developing the city budget until the last minute.

Thane said the referendum will give residents the choice between maintaining the status quo or moving forward.

“We are here to provide adequate service efficiently and in a cost-effective way but in a way that moves us into the future,” Thane said.

Voting will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 4. City Clerk Susan Alibozek said City Hall on Church Street is tentatively set as the polling place.

 
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