Utica Common Council members say changing the way the city chooses its comptroller could help save money, but it would mean voters would have to agree to give up their ability to choose the person who fills that office. Sarah Blazonis has details.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Uticans have headed to the polls for decades to elect the city's comptroller or chief fiscal officer. Common Council members say because it's an elected position, no criteria can be set for candidates interested in the office.
"Now more than ever do we need a chief fiscal officer with qualifications and the financial expertise to steer us on the path to recovery," said Common Council Member Joe Marino.
Marino says he plans to propose a law that would let residents decide whether to let the Common Council appoint the city's comptrollers and hold them to certain standards. They would include requiring appointees to be a Certified Public Accountant or have six years finance experience. They would also need a degree in finance or accounting.
Marino says research shows appointed treasurers with such experience can reduce a city's cost of borrowing by up to 23 percent.
"With Utica having a debt service expense of almost $6.5 million, if we could save just half, splitting the difference on the study, or 17 percent, it would cut our total city expenditures by roughly $1.1 million," said Marino.
Current comptroller Michael Cerminaro says he doesn't plan to run for re-election because of term limits, but he says he'd like to see the decision of who next fills the office left in the hands of city residents.
"These type of gimmicks aren't going to pull us out of the financial mess. Watching our spending, the administration has made a vow on controlling our spending, and now if the revenues hold up and they're much more realistic this year, we'll have a shot at this thing," said Cerminaro.
If the council approves the measure, it will be put on the ballot in November. The new system could be in place by 2014 if voters decide in favor of it.