Civics 101

HeightsOnline receives requests for information about how municipal government works. As an educational service to our readership, the Civics 101 page contains information about the Spring Lake Heights form of government and how residents can find the information they need.

Q: How can I find out when an ordinance was passed?

A: All SLH ordinances may be found online at: http://www.springlakehts.com/content/863/default.aspx

Click the link for “Coded Systems — Spring Lake Heights Code Book” and use the left-hand navigation links to review all the Borough’s laws. At the end of each section is the year of passage in parentheses. If multiple years are noted, the first is the year of initial passage and was then subsequently amended in the other years.

Q: How do I make an Open Public Records Request?

A: Most Borough documents, including e-mails, are available upon request. Anyone can fill out the OPRA form, located on the Borough’s Web site at: http://www.springlakehts.com/content/627/default.aspx

Once an OPRA request is filed, the Borough has 7 days to respond. There is a fee for copying the information. Under State law, there are certain topics that may remain confidential should they involve open litigation, ongoing negotiations, personnel files, and some police matters. However, some other information, such as contracts and payroll records, must be produced immediately, without the 7-day waiting period. Any taxpayer has the right to view this information.

Q: What does the Borough form of government mean?

As per the New Jersey League of Municipalities:

The Borough Form (NJSA 40A:60-1)

The Borough form remains the single most popular form of local government in New Jersey. This form dates back to the Borough Act of 1878 and was revised in 1897 and by the Borough Act of 1987. The Borough mayor is elected at-large to a four-year term. Six council members are elected at-large4 to staggered three-year terms.

The Borough form is often referred to as a “weak mayor-strong council” form. The mayor retains all general law authority, presides over council meetings and can vote in the case of a tie. The mayor appoints, with the advice and consent of council, all subordinate officers of the municipality. The council is the legislative body of the Borough. All executive responsibilities not placed in the office of the Mayor by general law or the Borough law remain with the council.

Like the other traditional forms, a Borough may appoint an administrator and delegate all or a portion of the executive responsibilities to him/her. The council may also adopt an administrative code, prescribing how the council shall perform it duties. As of 2006, 218 New Jersey municipalities operate under this form.

Q: What are the powers and duties of the Mayor under the Borough form of government?

By New Jersey State law, the powers of the Mayor are:

NJSA 40A:60-5. Powers of the mayor

a. The mayor shall be the head of the municipal government.

b. The mayor shall have all those powers designated by general law.

c. The mayor shall preside at meetings of the council and may vote to break a tie.

d. Every ordinance adopted by the council shall, within five days after its passage, Sundays excepted, be presented to the mayor by the borough clerk. The mayor shall, within ten days after receiving the ordinance, Sundays excepted, either approve the ordinance by affixing his signature thereto or return it to the council by delivering it to the clerk together with a statement setting forth his objections thereto or any item or part thereof. No ordinance or any item or part thereof shall take effect without the mayor’s approval, unless the mayor fails to return the ordinance to the council, as prescribed above, or unless the council, upon consideration of the ordinance following its return, shall, by a vote of two-thirds of all the members of council, resolve to override the veto.

e. No ordinance shall be passed, or appointment of any subordinate officer of the borough be confirmed, except by a vote of a majority of the members of the council present at the meeting, provided that at least three affirmative votes shall be required for such purpose, the mayor voting only in the case of a tie.

f. If any ordinance contains more than one distinct section, clause or item, the mayor may approve one or more thereof and veto the rest.

g. The mayor shall nominate and, with the advice and consent of council, appoint all subordinate officers of the borough, unless the specific terms of the general law clearly require a different appointment procedure. He shall make his nomination to any such office within thirty days of that office becoming vacant.

h. The mayor shall see to it that the laws of the State and the ordinances of the borough are faithfully executed. He shall recommend to the council such measures as he may deem necessary or expedient for the welfare of the borough. He shall maintain peace and good order and have the power to suppress all riots and tumultuous assemblies in the borough.

Q: What are the powers and duties of the Council under the Borough form of government?

By New Jersey State law, the powers and duties of the Council are:

NJSA 40A:60-6. Powers of the council
a. The council shall be the legislative body of the municipality.

b. The council may, subject to general law and the provisions of this act:

(1) pass, adopt, amend and repeal any ordinance or, where permitted, any resolution for any purpose required for the government of the municipality or for the accomplishment of any public purpose for which the municipality is authorized to act under general law;

(2) control and regulate the finances of the municipality and raise money by borrowing or taxation;

(3) create such offices and positions as it may deem necessary. The officers appointed thereto shall perform the duties required by law and the ordinances of the council. Other than the borough attorney, engineer, and building inspector, these officers shall be residents of the borough and shall serve at the pleasure of the council, except the clerk, who also shall be exempt from the borough residency requirement, the tax collector and tax assessor who shall serve for terms as provided in chapter 9 of Title 40A of the New Jersey Statutes. The council may exempt officers from the residency requirements but only pursuant to the adoption of an ordinance to that effect;

(4) investigate any activity of the municipality;

(5) remove any officer of the municipality, other than those officers excepted by law, for cause; and

(6) override a veto of the mayor by a two-thirds majority of all the members of the council.

c. The council shall have all the executive responsibilities of the municipality not placed, by general law or this act, in the office of the mayor.

d. The council, whenever it fails to confirm the nomination by the mayor of any official to a subordinate office of the borough within thirty days of being presented such nomination, shall make the appointment to that office, provided that at least three affirmative votes shall be required for such purpose, the mayor to have no vote thereon except in the case of a tie.

Additional powers of the Council are include in the New Jersey State Statute 40A:60-7. Miscellaneous

a. The borough council may, by ordinance, delegate all or a portion of the executive responsibilities of the municipality to an administrator, who shall be appointed pursuant to N.J.S. 40A:9-136.

b. The borough council may, by ordinance, adopt an administrative code. The administrative code shall restate the major provision of the borough’s charter and the general law supplementing the charter. The administrative code shall set forth the manner in which the council shall perform its duties. If the council organizes itself into standing committees or if the council members serve as heads of departments with administrative control over said departments, the administrative code shall specify the powers and duties of such committees or department heads and the manner in which they are appointed. The administrative code shall set forth the titles of the principal municipal officers, how the officers are appointed, how they are organized into departments, boards, commissions, and other agencies; whom they supervise, by whom they are supervised; what powers they have; and what procedure should be followed to carry on the activities of the borough government. The administrative code shall not grant any power or authority, nor authorize any procedure, unless such power, authority or procedure is authorized implicitly by the wording of the statute or derived by reasonable implication therefrom.

c. The assets and liabilities of any board, commission or district created pursuant to the statutes repealed in section 40A:60 -8 of this act shall be transferred to the municipality.

d. The borough council may create such advisory councils to the municipality as it may choose, including councils for the functions absorbed by it of any heretofore existing boards, commissions or districts.

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