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Voters to decide on Spa City government change

— Saratoga Springs voters will have a say on doing away with the city’s commission form of government come the November election.

Charter amendments put forward by the Saratoga Citizen organization were moved forward by the City Council in a 4-1 vote on Tuesday, May 15. Mayor Scott Johnson cast the dissenting vote.

If voters approve of the amendment, starting in 2014 the city would be run by a council-manager form of government with a five-member City Council that hires a professional manager.

The city has operated with five commissioners since its incorporation in 1915. Each commissioner is elected and holds a seat on the City Council, but also presides over his or her own department, such as public safety, public works or the mayor’s office.

The vote represented a major milestone for Saratoga Citizen, Inc., which was founded by Patrick Kane in 2009. Specific language to appear on the ballot has not yet been formulated, according to Kane.

“As Saratoga Springs has grown the current form of government, adopted in 1915, no longer serves our needs. The council-manager form is the fastest growing form of government in the country for cities of our size. Nationwide, 54 percent of municipalities with a population between 5,000 and249,999 residents are governed under the council-manager structure (2,773 out of 5,165). The number of cities with the commission form has steadily declined since World War I. Fewer than 1 percent of cities retain the commission form,” read a statement released by Saratoga Citizen.

Watertown is an example of a municipality with the council-manager form of government.

The charter amendment was held up by two years of legal proceedings, and dates contained in the original document had expired. Accounts Commissioner John Franck brought forward a charter amendment with no such problems on May 15, meaning while the initiative originated with Saratoga Citizen the adopted proposal came from the council itself.

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