City pursues manager idea

GLOVERSVILLE – Officials may put a proposal to change the city’s form of government into the hands of voters.

The city council Tuesday scheduled a July 22 public hearing on the potential change and decided to draft a law for a public referendum.

Members of the New York State City/County Management Association attended Tuesday’s council meeting and answered questions about a city manager form of government.

However, several elected officials and department heads were absent, including Mayor Dayton King and three council members.

Under the council-manager system, the city council, which can include the mayor, is the legislative body and an appointed city manager is the executive body.

Officials previously said the mayor would be a member of the city council and act as the chairman, and together with the council would appoint a professionally trained city manager. The city manager would be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations, proposing the city budget, setting the council agenda, appointing department heads and supervising employees.

The new form of government would eliminate the councilman-at-large position and have the mayor take over those responsibilities. The change also would eliminate the commissioner of finance position because the manager would handle that responsibility.

Jason Molino, the city manager of Batavia, Genesee County, said at the meeting he has been the manager of his city for eight years.

Molino, who grew up in Johnstown, said the Batavia council is made up of nine elected officials, with three of

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them serving as councilmen-at-large. Every two years, the council appoints one of the three positions to serve as chairman. There is no position for a mayor under Batavia’s system, he said.

He said he is the lowest-paid city manager in the state, at $87,000.

Retired Elmira City Manager John Burin said his salary was $111,000 when retired and his contract had a three-month severance clause.

He said under his leadership, the city was facing a deficit of $3 million when he started, but within seven years, it was able to put about $6 million in the fund balance due to cost savings.

Molino also said he negotiated deals with the union that saved his city a considerable amount of money.

Gloversville Public Works Department Director Kevin Jones asked whether the city manager would live in the city and was told that would be up to the governing body.

City Attorney Anthony Casale asked how much an assistant or deputy manager would make, and he was told they make in the range of $65,000 to $79,000.

First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, who invited the New York State City/County Management Association members to the meeting, said if voters approve the referendum to change the system of government, a Charter Review Commission would be formed to decide how the system would operate.

“I was happy to see that department heads had questions, and I think those questions were well answered,” Wentworth said.

Mayor Dayton King said today, “I don’t know what the hurry is. My term wouldn’t end until Jan. 1, 2018, and it’s only 2014. I wasn’t at the meeting, but after some research, I know the city of Batavia just recently hired a deputy manager, and with his salary, plus the cost of the city manager, I don’t see the cost savings. If the voters want that, it’s fine, but I encourage them to really do some research going forward.”