Utica, NY (WIBX) - With Utica facing nearly $70 million in general fund debt, one councilman is proposing a new way of handling the city's funds.

Joe Marino was at City Hall with fellow council members, Ed Bucciero and Samantha Colosimo-Testa, to discuss new legislation making the role of city comptroller an appointed position rather than an elected one.

"I would love to have put qualifications on the elected office," Marino said. "I tried. I can't. The only way we can put qualifications on this financial position is by way of a referendum and by appointing the position. And the only people who can appoint in this building are the common council and the mayor. It can't be the mayor, so it has to be us."

Currently, anyone may run for the position, regardless of their qualifications.

The changes allow the common council to choose a qualified candidate to assume the role. Marino says this change is radically different from previous plans, yet still keeps voters involved.

"In the past, Utica used to appoint treasurers by way of the mayor and that simply doesn't work," Marino said. "So, it needs to be done by the Common Council, and further, the Common Council is essentially the representatives of the people directly. So, it would essentially be the people picking their councilmen, ergo picking the treasurer of the city."

Marino also said the role of comptroller needs to be converted from a political job to that of a profession, because the city needs to "hire the best possible person for such a critical post."

Following Utica's downgraded bond rating, the city is only two notches above junk bond status. Combined with the recent ten percent tax hike and having its reserve funds depleted to nothing, Utica is scrambling to avoid the same situation next year.

If the council and public both approve the resolution, a treasurer would be selected to start on January 1, 2014 when the position, currently held by Michael Cerminaro, becomes vacant.