UNION — What type of government should the City of Union have?
On Tuesday, Jan. 9, voters in the City of Union will have the opportunity to go to the polls and decide that question.
In 2017, Union City Council approved an ordinance authorizing a referendum on changing the city’s form of 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?
Currently, the City of Union has a Mayor-Council or “Strong Mayor” form of municipal government. According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina website (www.masc.sc), under this system 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.
The website states that under the Mayor-Council system 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.“
It further states that “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.”
In addition, the website states that “council shall adopt an annual budget for the operation of the municipality and capital improvements.
The other option on the ballot will be the Council or “Weak Mayor” system of government, under which the website states “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.
Polls will be open Tuesday, Jan. 9 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at all city precincts. Those precincts and their locations are:
• Ward 1 Box 1 — Foster Park Elementary School
• Ward 1 Box 2 — Truluck Gym
• Ward 2 — Bus Maintenance Department
• Ward 3 — Union Housing Authority Office
• Ward 4 Box 1 — Union County Courthouse
• Ward 4 Box 2 — Union County Recreation Department
• Excelsior — Masonic Lodge
• East Buffalo — Buffalo Elementary School
All registered voters in the Ward 1 Box 1, Ward 1 Box 2, Ward 2, Ward 3, Ward 4 Box 1, and Ward 4 Box 2 precincts are eligible to vote in the referendum.
The Excelsior and East Buffalo precincts, however, are split, with only part of them located within the city’s municipal boundaries. Only the registered voters of those precincts who live within the municipal boundaries of the City of Union may vote in the referendum.
For more information about the Tuesday, Jan. 9 referendum contact the City of Union Municipal Clerk’s Office at 864-429-1701.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.