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All legislative and executive functions, keeping of Township records, issuing of certain licenses, legal advertising, collection and disbursement of all taxes and assessments, with keeping of attendant records, tax sales, recording of financial transactions with attendant bookkeeping, payrolls, debt service and refunding; assessing of all properties for purpose of taxation; election, Magistrate's Court, legal work.
The Councilmen of the Township of Teaneck are the direct representatives of the people, elected by them as their Governing Body on the second Tuesday in May of each four years. Under the Municipal Manager Plan they are primarily the policy determining branch of the government. In them is vested the right to pass ordinances, levy taxes, make certain appointments, create departments and boards, fix salaries of officials and employees, conduct investigations into any department or branch of the government, create advisory boards and cause a yearly audit to be made. Under a queer kink of the Health Laws they also act as a Board of Health with the addition of a physician and the Township Assessor.
The Township officials whom they directly appoint are the Municipal Manager, Municipal Auditor, Assessor, Treasurer, Clerk, Attorney and Police Magistrate. The last is the only appointive official who has a definite fixed tern of office.
The Council is the only body which can incur Township debts or bind the municipality contractually. Vacancies in the Municipal Council are filled by appointment by the remaining members until the next General Election, unless such appointment be made within a year of the Municipal Election, in which case the appointee holds office until the next Municipal Election.
The Mayor is elected as a Councilman and elevated to the position of Mayor by the vote of the Councilmen. It is specifically provided that the appointment of the Library Board is a part of his functions, as would be the appointment of the School Board in any municipality operating under Article 6 of the School laws. The Mayor presides at all meetings of the Council, performs the ceremonial duties which fall to that office, and is the person to execute bonds, notes, contracts or other written obligations of the Township, authorized by the Council.
The Municipal Manager is appointed by a majority vote of the Councilmen. In general, he is the Chief Administrative or Executive Officer of the municipality, his primary duties being to execute the laws and ordinances of the Township; to see that the terms of all contracts and franchises are kept. He may negotiate contracts for the municipality, but the Council only has power to execute them. Wherever in any statute, except those specifically mentioned, the Mayor is given executive powers, such powers are transferred to the Municipal Manager. In general he also falls heir to the executive powers of Commissioners or Township Committeemen wherever such powers were specifically given by Township ordinance. For instance, he automatically by virtue of his office becomes the Police and Fire commissioner. He has the power to appoint and control department heads and subordinate officers for whose selection or removal no other method is provided. The preparation of this report is one of his functions, as is the compiling of the tentative annual budget. It has been noted that certain officials are the direct appointees of Council and would seem to be responsible directly to Council. This is particularly true of the auditor and assessor, these are two specific offices which the Manager is not permitted to hold under the law. He may hold other executive offices beside the Managership. In Teaneck, for instance, he is also the Township Engineer. This then brings up the relation of the Manager to the Council appointed officials. In Teaneck this has been solved in a common sense manner by mutual and close cooperation with practically all of the Council appointed administrative officials.
In the Township of Teaneck at present there is a Township Clerk who is a part time officer and a Deputy Township Clerk, who also acts as Secretary to the Township Manager. The primary duties of the Clerk are set out by various statutes. They particularly concern the keeping of the official minute books and records, attesting all contracts and ordinances for publication, and their preservation in the official ordinance book, the issuing of various licenses, and the conducting of the elections.
Treasurer and Collector
Treasurer and Collector--In the case of the Township of Teaneck, the office of Treasurer and Collector have been combined, the Collector serving as Treasurer for $1.00 a year. Under the statutes the Treasurer also becomes the Custodian of School funds, for which he is paid an additional $360 by the Board of Education. Because of the general interest in this Department, a discussion of it will be broken up into three divisions:
1. The Treasurer's division, concerns itself with the consolidated accounting and bookkeeping, together with the issuing, sale and redemption of bonds and other Township obligations.
2. The collection division, primarily concerned with the collection, posting and balancing of assessments and taxes, the making of necessary adjustments and apportionments, and the holding of tax sales.
3. The Tax Search Officer, primarily concerned with the searching of properties for municipal charges or liens.
The Treasurer's division, keeps the official books of the Township in accordance with the standards and practices prescribed by the Department of Municipal Accounts. The accounting is done under the three headings of Capital, Trust and Current, though within the past years the accounting under emergency relief has become as voluminous as any of the others. Monthly trial balances are struck and cash reconciliations are made with the bank. All bills find their way into the Treasurer's office, whereupon it is necessary for him to remit them to the proper department for the signatures of the officials concerned, and to see that they are properly notarized. Then they are placed upon the list for action by Council. Following this action, checks are drawn to be signed by the Mayor, the Township Clerk and the Treasurer. An idea of the volume of the work may be obtained by stating that last year there were signed approximately 9,000 checks. The volume of transactions handled last year amounted to about two and a half million dollars, approximately half in cash and half in bonds. The detailed work is done by one finance clerk at $1,620 per year.
In the Collector's office there is also great volume and great detail. The records are kept in the form prescribed by the N. J. State Department of Municipal Accounts, and while they may seem too extensive, the system employed does give records that "talk" and prevents costly errors. In detail they are as follows:
There are at present 271 active assessments on which collections are being made, the accounts of each being kept separate. Taxes as received are segregated to the different years. All cash is balanced at the end of each day and permanent records kept of each day's business. Deposits are made daily in the Township depositories. Once a month or oftener if necessary, the Collector turns over to the Treasurer all cash on hand.
The Tax Collector also is required to make out and mail all tax bills (under the new laws this must be done twice a year) and to compile, advertise and hold the tax sales, all of which is done with the personnel shown.
New laws permitting the partial payment of delinquent taxes and assessments and the payment of new taxes in quarterly payments have greatly increased the work in the tax office. In general, periods of depression as the present, also throw added burdens on the collector, requiring him to be more and more an actual collector rather than a receiver of taxes. For two years many methods for the collection of delinquent taxes have been used by the collector. Among these have been circulation of delinquent accounts, personal visits to corporations and individuals whose taxes were in arrears, and the withholding of payments by the Township to those owing the Township taxes until such taxes were paid. This has also applied to the salaries and wages of Township and school board employees.
In connection with the routine work such as that described above, the Collector is constantly called on to revise his accounts because of break downs and changes in ownership, many of them at times extremely complicated, particularly if they run back some years.
The Search Officer holds a position of great responsibility. Upon request he must furnish to any applicant who pays the statutory fee a statement showing all the charges or liens the Township has against any particular piece of property. His report is final, and in case any omission is made the Township may be debarred from ever recovering for the amount so omitted. The necessity for having complete, clear and accurate records may be appreciated from this angle. Last year the Search Officer made 1535 searches, for which a total of $2,753.00 was received in fees.
A suggestion has been made that it would be a saving to the Township of Teaneck if a bank were appointed to act as Treasurer and Collector for the Township of Teaneck. In some of the smaller municipalities who have part time collectors such a plan might work out, but in the case of the Township of Teaneck it may well be realized from the above descriptions that far more than a banking proposition is involved. The work would partake rather of the nature of a trust account, involving as it does many matters of judgment and legal authority not to mention tax sales, refunding, apportionments, etc., above and beyond the pure bookkeeping. A bank at the most could be only a receiver of taxes and not the collector and treasurer in the full sense.
The Police Magistrate is appointed by the Township Council for a four year term. It is he who conducts the police court described under the Police Department section of the report. His salary is $900.00 per year.
The Township attorney is another official appointed by the Township Council. He is the official legal advisor to the Council. The Township Manager also requests and receives his opinions on various matters from time to time. It is the Township attorney who approves from a legal point of view all contracts and surety bonds entered into by the Township. He is paid $10.00 per meeting, plus fees for such other legal work as he may be called upon to do. During the past four years the Township attorney has received for fees, attendance at Council meetings and other extra work, the following sums:
During these years a total of $7,104.06 was also paid to other attorneys on an agreement for foreclosures that was in existence when the present administration took office.
The Township Manager does some of the semi-legal work such as the preparation of ordinances, drawing of minor contracts, etc., with a resultant saving in the legal costs. The Township attorney also represents the Township in the hearings before the State Board of Tax Appeals.
The principal court matters which have been handled by the Township attorney during the past three years have been as follows:
Purchasers of municipal bonds invariably require the opinion of a recognized bond attorney as to their legality, and consequently such a firm was employed in connection with the refunding operation during the past year when a total of $799,000 bonds were refunded. The entire legal costs of this, including aid in contacting and conferences with the bond holders, was $927.71.
The Assessor is another officer appointed directly by Council. The fact that his office is independent of the Township Manager is emphasized by the legal prohibition against combining the two. Cooperation between the two offices, however, exists. Briefly, the changes in this office during the past few years have been the substitution of a single assessor for the three man board. The change was made primarily for the purpose of having one responsible assessing official and for the reduction in cost. The ultimate saving on cost has not yet materialized because an extra clerk has been employed in this office during the times when the equalization of valuations and the setting up of new sets of records took place, in which some unemployed help was also used. At present the Assessor's office is compiling and perfecting records showing the measurements and details concerning every home in Teaneck. Land valuations have also been equalized, so that at present every front foot of ground in the Township of Teaneck bears definite relation to every other foot. Modern methods of assessing, such as depth rules and corner influences are applied.
The auditor is still another officer directly appointed by the Council. A brief resume of the work will be given. Upon assuming office. Council found in existence a contract with payments being made upon a monthly basis. This contract was abrogated to permit the Department of Municipal Accounts to make not only a yearly audit, but a complete synopsis and recapitulation of the Township's financial condition, together with complete system of records. From year to year the Department has been re-engaged. The costs of the audits during the past few years have shown:
In general the amount shown under reserve column in the departmental costs have been reservations for audits.
Prior to 1930 the auditor also handled tax sales and assessment commission matters. This entailed additional fees to the extent that in 1929 $11,595.00 was paid to the auditor.
Since the Treasurer keeps his books in constant balance, there has been no continuous bookkeeping or auditing done by the auditor. The above figures do not include charges for miscellaneous service rendered from time to time.
The holding of the tax sale is a function of the Collector, enjoined upon him by law. Such sales were held in 1932 and 1933, the 1933 sale being for 1931 taxes. The next sale, will be for 1932 taxes. As soon as times become more normal, intervals between the date on which tax sale could be held for any year's taxes and the date on which it is actually held, should be shortened. Under the law a tax sale for any year's taxes can be held after July 1st of the following year. Under present conditions almost an additional year is given before the sale is held. In order to make tax sales less burdensome, only properties have been sold on which taxes were delinquent. That is, if a person kept his taxes paid up to within two years, his property was not entered in the tax sale, even though assessments may have been delinquent. It is believed that such action has been warranted, not only because of economic conditions, but also by the fact that an assessment is a fixed quantity which does not increase from year to year, except for the interest, while on the other hand a delinquent tax increases in arithmetical progression.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410