CARS HOMES JOBS

Saratoga Springs mayor suggests review of charter

Panel to study budget process, government format

Saturday, January 19, 2013
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— A city charter review commission will be appointed in the coming months to make recommendations on how to improve Saratoga Springs’ existing charter.

City voters rejected a proposed change in the city’s current commission form of government in November’s elections.

A three-year campaign by the grass-roots organization Saratoga Citizen to change to a more-modern city manager-city council form of government was defeated 4,468-6,036.

“Despite the defeat last November of the latest charter reform movement it became obvious that there are some concerns in our community, as well as needed improvements in our present charter, that justify a charter review,” Mayor Scott Johnson said Thursday in his State of the City address.

The purpose of the charter review is not to change the city’s long-running commission form of government but rather review the current charter and make recommendations “on how we can improve upon our present commission format to better serve each of us,” the mayor said.

He will ask the yet-to-be named charter review commission to review the budget process, the respective responsibilities and duties of each department and the terms of office, and to eliminate “redundancies and ambiguities” in the charter.

City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said after Johnson’s address Thursday that she took exception to the mayor suggesting changes in the city’s budget process.

“We did an excellent job with the budget,” she said. The 2013 city budget adopted last fall included no tax rate increase and featured a healthy surplus fund, she said.

“We worked very hard on that budget,” Madigan said. “Our budget process has excellent checks and balances.”

The new charter commission’s job will be “comprehensive but manageable” so that the proposed charter changes can be presented to city voters in November, Johnson said.

The review will include better defining “the relationship and necessity of certain functions such as human resources and the city Civil Service Commission,” he said.

Some City Council members also took exception to Johnson’s announcement this week that he has appointed an 11-member city comprehensive plan committee without input from his fellow council members.

He did offer each of the four City Council members the opportunity to recommend one person for the committee during his State of the City address.

The city charter requires city leaders to review the city’s land use comprehensive plan on a regular basis.

The plan outlines and explains the city’s goals for future land use development, indicating where such development should occur.

City Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mattiesen said the duty of appointing the members to a comprehensive plan committee “rests with the entire City Council,” not just the mayor.

He said the state Department of State indicates clearly that the council appoints such a committee, not the mayor.

Johnson has not released his list of committee members but said this week they include “representatives from all city land use boards, economic development with regional focus, the downtown business district, the development/real estate community, the school district, Skidmore College, urban design expertise, land use law expertise, open space, and parks and recreation.”

Johnson said the committee will spend six to eight months working on the comprehensive plan update with help from a professional consultant. The committee’s draft recommendations for changes will then be presented to the City Council for legislative action.

 
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