UNION — Will the City of Union be better served by retaining its current “strong mayor” system of government or by switching to a “weak mayor” system?
That’s the issue facing city residents who will be asked to go to the polls in January to decide whether or not to change Union’s form of government.
At its October meeting Tuesday evening, Union City Council voted unanimously to approve second and final reading of an ordinance authorizing a referendum on changing the city’s form of municipal government. The referendum asks voters to vote yes or no on the following question:
“Shall the municipality of Union change its form of government from the mayor-council form to the council form?”
The referendum is scheduled to be held Jan. 9, 2018.
While Tuesday’s vote was unanimous, at the September meeting when first reading of the ordinance was approved, the vote was 5-2 with Mayor Harold Thompson and Councilwoman Sonja Craig casting the dissenting votes. Thompson said at the time that he and Craig had favored presenting voters with the option of switching the city’s form of government from mayor-council to council-manager. He said he felt the city would be better served with the council-manager form of government as it would bring greater professionalism to the day-to-day administration of city government.
Thompson said Thursday that although he still favors the council-manager form of government and presenting voters with that option, he voted Tuesday in favor of the ordinance as it is written in order to place the question before the voters.
Forms Of Government
According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina website (www.masc.sc) there are three forms of municipal government in South Carolina:
Under the Mayor-Council or “Strong Mayor” form of municipal government the mayor is “the chief administrative officer of the municipality” with the following powers and duties:
(1) to appoint and, when he deems it necessary for the good of the municipality, suspend or remove all municipal employees and appointive administrative officers … except as otherwise provided by law, or personnel rules. He may authorize any administrative officer who is subject to his direction and supervision to exercise these powers with respect to subordinates in that officer’s department, office or agency;
(2) to direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the municipality;
(3) to preside at meetings of the council and vote as other councilmen;
(4) to act to insure that all laws and ordinances of the council, subject to enforcement by him or by officers subject to his direction and supervision, are faithfully executed;
(5) to prepare and submit the annual budget and capital program to the council;
(6) to submit to the council and make available to the public a complete report on the finances and administrative activities of the municipality as of the end of each fiscal year; and
(7) to make such other reports as the council may require concerning the operations of municipal departments, offices and agencies subject to his direction and supervision.
Under the Mayor-Council systems the city council “may establish municipal departments, offices, and agencies … and may prescribe the functions of all departments, offices and agencies, except that no function assigned by law to a particular department, office or agency may be discontinued or assigned to any other agency. The mayor and council may employ an administrator to assist the mayor in his office.
All departments, offices and agencies under the direction and supervision of the mayor shall be administered by an officer appointed by and subject to the direction and supervision of the mayor.
The council shall adopt an annual budget for the operation of the municipality and capital improvements.
Under the Council or “Weak Mayor” system of government “all legislative and administrative powers of the municipality and the determination of all matters of policy shall be vested in the municipal council. Each member of council, including the mayor, shall have one vote.” According to state law, the powers of the council under the Council system of government include:
(a) The council may establish municipal departments, offices or agencies … and may prescribe the functions of all departments, offices and agencies. The council may hire an administrator to assist the council.
(b) All departments, offices and agencies may be administered by an officer appointed by and subject to the direction and supervision of the council.
(c) The municipal council shall adopt annually, prior to the beginning of the fiscal year, operating and capital budgets for the operation of city government and shall in such budgets identify the sources of anticipated revenue including taxes necessary to meet the financial requirements of the budgets adopted. The council shall further provide for the levy and collection of taxes necessary to meet all budget requirements except as provided for by other revenue sources.
Under the Council-Manager system of government “all legislative powers of the municipality and the determination of all matters of policy shall be vested in the municipal council, each member, including the mayor, to have one vote.” The council will:
(1) Employ a manager;
(2) Establish other administrative departments and assign and distribute the work thereof upon recommendation of and with the approval of the manager;
(3) Adopt the budget of the municipality;
(4) Authorize the issuance of bonds by bond ordinance, subject to such restrictions and limitations as may be prescribed by law;
(5) Have the power to inquire into the conduct of any office, department or agency of the municipality, make investigations as to municipal affairs and give the public information concerning them;
(6) Adopt plats;
(7) Adopt and modify the official map of the municipality;
(8) Provide for an independent annual audit of the books and business affairs of the municipality and for a general survey of municipal business;
(9) Provide for the general health and welfare of the municipality in accordance with the statute law of the State with reference to the general police powers granted to municipalities;
(10) Enact ordinances of any nature and kind, not prohibited by the law or Constitution of the State or of the United States; and
(11) With the advice of the manager, appoint all committees, boards and commissions relating to the affairs of the municipal government, except as otherwise provided by law.
Under the Council-Manager system “the manager shall be the chief executive officer and head of the administrative branch of the municipal government. He shall be responsible to the municipal council for the proper administration of all affairs of the municipality.” To that end the manager will:
(1) Appoint and, when necessary for the good of the municipality, remove any appointive officer or employee of the municipality and fix the salaries of such officers and employees, except as otherwise provided in this chapter or prohibited by law and except as he may authorize the head of a department or office to appoint and remove subordinates in such department or office;
(2) Prepare the budget annually, submit it to the municipal council and be responsible for its administration after adoption;
(3) Prepare and submit to the municipal council at the end of each fiscal year a complete annual report on the finances and administrative activities of the municipality for the preceding year and make such other financial reports from time to time as may be required by the council;
(4) Keep the municipal council advised of the financial condition and future needs of the municipality and make such recommendations as may seem to him desirable; and
(5) Perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law or required of him by the municipal council.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.