Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Tuesday, 02 January 2024 10:31

City Council: A New Order Soon?

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics

At the special end-of-year Saratoga Springs City Council meeting on December 28, the Council’s deliberations were marked as usual with improper proposals, confusion over resolutions, and, of course, acrimony.

Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi’s agenda included a proposal to fix what she referred to as the “human error” in the 2024 city budget that resulted in her budget improperly exceeding the New York State Property Tax Cap. Apparently, a miscalculation having to do with a program called “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) was the cause of the problem. The Commissioner did not explain how the error occurred or why she had just noticed that her budget violated the state’s tax cap (this blog indicated the tax cap was an issue weeks ago) and how she planned to avoid such events in the future.

The remedy Sanghvi proposed involved the Council approving changes in the 2024 budget. Kim repeatedly and forcefully stated that amending the 2024 budget in 2023 was in violation of the city charter and that he was “aghast” that she was proposing this.

In the end, no action was taken, and the problem was kicked over to the incoming Council.

At the same meeting, Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran offered a resolution to award a bid to a company for, as far as I can tell, setting up a registry for short-term rentals in the city.

Moran acknowledged that his resolution did not include an actual contract with the firm as was usually the case. He told his colleagues that changes in the insurance market had become a barrier to the city’s standard contract. He assured his colleagues he would work things out and that a contract would be ready for action at the next Council meeting. He told his colleagues that rather than use the city’s contract, he would use one from the vendor. This vendor had, apparently, already gotten the city to sign a non-city contract with the firm previously.

The city purchasing policy restricts the use of non-city contracts. Such contracts are only to be used in unusual circumstances and, most importantly, must include all the city’s requirements.

The normal procedure would have been for Moran to present all the items related to an award bundled together for action. These would have included the contract. 

Why Moran could not wait until he had all the documents ready to present this to the Council is unclear, but this is part of an unfortunate pattern. There is, of course, the possibility that the successful bidder could not comply with the city’s policies, so prudence would have had Moran wait on the matter.

This is especially odd because he was introducing his resolution at a special meeting of the Council on December 28, and the new Council would be meeting in only five days. He never explained why there was a rush on the matter nor why he felt the need to bifurcate the process over two meetings.

In fact, the agenda for January 2, 2024, is on the city’s website, and there is no item on his agenda for this proposed agreement.

Pardon the play on words of the title of this post, but hopefully, this new council will combine the fact that it is a new order (group) and hopefully will bring a new discipline (order) in how this city does business.

As far back as I can remember, previous Councils have utilized their City Attorneys to review resolutions to be brought before the Council first to ensure that they met all the legal requirements both of our own charter and of all related other institutions.

Hopefully, on January 2, 2023, when the new Council convenes, Moran’s proposed contract will be tabled if it appears on his agenda and, along with the documents he presented on the 28th, they will be reviewed by the new City Attorney before any further action is taken.

In fact, I am optimistic that the free-for-all of chaotic resolutions submitted, withdrawn, resubmitted, etc., will be history, and the new Council will move forward with a more disciplined and deliberative approach to legislation, and it will indeed be a Happy New Year for the city.

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