SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs city officials plan to hire a new risk and safety director amid skyrocketing liability insurance rates.
The city’s insurance will be up 64.4% for 2024, going from $1,167,650 to $1,920,000, according to Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi. This comes after the city switched to the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal after Travelers Insurance told the city in a September letter it would be dropping them.
In a September letter, Travelers said it was not renewing its contract with the city because of the city’s “approach to risk and safety management creates an unacceptable increase in the hazards contemplated for the city.”
While Mayor Ron Kim had indicated that lawsuits the city was facing due to prior administrations’ actions was the reason for Travelers not renewing its insurance, other officials indicated it was due to the city’s lack of a risk and safety director.
Account Commissioner Dillon Moran said Thursday that plans are already in the works to hire someone in the position, which was moved back under his oversight from the mayor’s office Tuesday night during the City Council meeting. Outgoing Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino was the only council member to vote against moving the position back to the accounts department.
He and Sanghvi had previously supported the position being put under the mayor’s department.
Montagnino said because the risk and safety director needs to work closely with the city attorney, who is already under the oversight of the mayor’s office, it makes sense to keep the risk and safety position there. Montagnino has previously criticized Kim for not hiring someone to fill the position. Kim had indicated that the assistant city attorney was handling the duties of the risk and safety officer.
Kim provided no comment at the meeting Tuesday as to why he supported moving the position back to the accounts department. However, at a Nov. 28 special meeting, Kim said he changed his stance on what department the position should fall under following conversations he had during the election cycle. Kim lost his re-election bid to Republican challenger John Safford.
“Elections matter,” he said. “I was wrong when we moved it over. Now we’re moving it back. I listened to what the people said and apparently one of the things they felt is this should be properly in accounts.”
It doesn’t really matter what department oversees the risk and safety director, as long as they have someone in the role, said Department of Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub, who abstained from the original vote to move the position.
“Ultimately, where the role sites is secondary to having a quality director of risk and safety who is an expert in this space and two city attorneys, one of which works with the risk and safety director to ensure quality of process and legal input,” Golub said in a statement Thursday.
While Sanghvi indicated some of the increase to the city’s insurance rate is due to nationwide trends, she also said that having someone in the role of risk and safety will help the city with liability issues.
“Our liability insurance is up almost $1 million from 2023 to 2024,” she said at the meeting. “Our city cannot continue doing this. Having a risk and safety person who knows their job can help with these issues.”
Clinton Mora is a reporter for Trending Insurance News. He has previously worked for the Forbes. As a contributor to Trending Insurance News, Clinton covers emerging a wide range of property and casualty insurance related stories.