The costs of government, no matter the form, tend to rise annually. It is especially so if 70 percent of its budget is spent on personnel (including health and disability benefits), and there is no centralized human resources department to encourage sharing skills between departments, and to eliminate redundancy and patronage. Over the last 16 years under Saratoga Springs’ commission form of government, required long term analysis and planning for water and sewer infrastructure, safety and emergency services and property assessments have been minimally handled, if at all. Whether the reasons are financial, or a lack of coordination and competence between municipal branches isn’t clear. In the long run, the dollar cost of inattention will catch up to the city.
Here’s where the proposed new charter weighs in with the possibility of achieving both goals: first, advancing a unified, cooperative, skilled approach to long term city planning through the oversight of a city manager; second, streamlining the workforce and reducing bureaucracy and inefficiency. There is absolutely the possibility of substantial savings in personnel costs and bulk purchasing. These would help offset expenses in other areas so that the city budget remains predictably stable.
It is disingenuous to suggest that we vote against the proposed charter reform because it won’t save XYZ dollars and proponents are purposely misleading in their calculations. The point is that voting for change could usher in an era of improved city functioning and planning, along with the possibility of real savings — monetary and otherwise.
Holly Schwarz-Lawton, Saratoga Springs