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Both sides claim fuzzy math in charter reform

Days after John Franck and Matt McCabe, commissioners of accounts and finance, respectively, came out as saying Saratoga Springs is in healthy financial shape, Mayor Valerie Keehn said the city should be audited to gain a clear understanding of its financial condition.

According to Keehn, increased spending and ongoing operating deficits are cause for serious concern, and she questioned such trends in the midst of a construction boom that has added millions of dollars to assessment rolls in recent years. The state comptroller last audited the city in 2003, and Keehn said she doesn't need city council approval to request another. I'm contemplating it, she said.

Keehn is at the helm of a proposed change in the city's commission-style of government, which she blames for current fiscal problems. There is no system of checks and balances in place in this style of government, she said, and no independent counsel to oversee spending. The same commissioners who are devising the budget are then approving the budget and then spending the budget."

Franck, on Oct. 25, compared Saratoga Springs to 10 similar-sized cities in New York State, and said the Spa City ranks near the top in most financial categories. Many cities get substantial amounts of state and federal aid that Saratoga Springs doesn't qualify for because of its fiscal success, he said.

"We're not given state welfare to take care of ourselves," he said. "Under this form of government we clearly are fiscally responsible. We pay our bills, we don't borrow a lot."

Keehn took issue with Franck's methodology. "You know, Manhattan is the same geographic size as Saratoga Springs. Should we compare ourselves to Manhattan?" she asked. "You know, it's almost ridiculous to even try to intelligently discuss that type of argument. We're not Auburn or Ithica, we're Saratoga Springs. None of those other cities have the track, SPAC, or Skidmore."

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