A mayoral stroke of the pen will gain weight if proposed legislation becomes law.
S2427, which will be before the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee tomorrow, would give mayors the power to veto the actions of municipal authorities.
The legislation, introduced by Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1) of Cape May, would allow mayors, with the consent of a majority of the council, to rein in activities of authorities that oversee various services, including sewer and water plants.
Such authorities, whose boards are generally composed of appointees, can make expensive, long-term decisions that Van Drew believes a town’s elected officials should have more control over.
“We should use every mechanism at hand to try and control expenses,’’ said Van Drew, who added that the proposal is similar to one adopted last fall that gave similar power to county executives and freeholder boards.
While he acknowledged that many authorities are necessary, “there should be a check and a balance,’’ he said. “It is another tool in order to give local governing bodies every possible way to try and control taxes.’’
Authorities, for example, have the ability to float bond deals to pay for projects. Such deals can increase expenses as well as residents’ rates for a service, but often it will be the elected officials who feel the heat from the residents over such actions.
One consideration in the proposal might involve authorities that are answerable to more than one municipality. Van Drew said such concerns will be looked at in committee.
William Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said that his organization has not taken a position on the proposed legislation, but that he has talked to administrators who generally are in favor of it.
He pointed out that at one point in time, authorities were not subject to approvals of local finance boards, but that has changed under legislation that he said the league supported. This proposed change is just one more level of checks and balances, he believes.
“The public services these authorities perform is sometimes off-budget, so to speak, but they do have an impact on the budget,’’ he said.
With state aid to towns greatly reduced under Christie’s belt-tightening, municipalities need every means possible to help control expenses, according to Van Drew.
“This will empower mayors to do what we’ve already empowered governors to do,’’ he said.