First Anniversary of Adoption of The Municipal Manager Plan – Forth Citizens Drafted to Serve on Nine Honorary Advisory Boards
The Town Manager – By Teaneck Taxpayers’ League, November 1931, p. 1, 4 & 10
With the present Township Council’s first year in office near its end, Teaneck citizens have reason to review the developments of the year and answer for themselves these questions:
Was the decision to adopt the municipal manager form of government, arrived at by referendum vote on Sept. 16, 1930, a wise decision?
Was the selection of the five men who now serve as township councilmen a sound and satisfactory selections?
Have those men, since taking office at noon on Nov. 11 1930, lived up to their oath of office and the letter and spirit of the pledges to which they voluntarily subscribed before election?
In other works, has Teaneck Taxpayers’ League, which advocated adoption of the plan, and which conducted to a successful issue first the campaign for the referendum and second the campaign to elect five councilmen, justified itself in the minds of the people of Teaneck and proved to them that its aims and activities from the beginning were as represented – not self-seeking but for the good of the entire community?
Has the municipal manager form of government “made good” in Teaneck?
The last question really sums up all the rest. To answer it affirmatively is to answer “yes” to all the rest.
Upon taking office at noon on Armistice Day, last year, the council elected as mayor Karl D. Van Wagner, who had received the largest vote in the election. As originally adopted, the law required this. As later amended, selection of a mayor as their presiding officer was left to the discretion of the councilmen, but the newly elected Teaneck councilmen acted in keeping with the spirit of the law as originally passed.
At the first session the council made appointments that the law required it to make, as follow:
Township Manager – Paul A. Volcker; salary, $7,500 a year.
Police Magistrate – Leland Ferry; Salary, $1,000 a year.
Township Attorney – Frank Morrison; Salary, $500 a year, plus fees and expenses for service other than attendance at council meetings.
Township Auditor – State Department of Municipal Accounting, for fees as fixed by law.
Township Clerk – Henry E. Diehl; salary, $500 a year.
Township Treasurer – Councilman Walter Ely; salary, $1 a year.
Township Board of Assessors – William E. Beaumont, $4,000; and Charles Weissinger and Wm. Carr, $1,000 each yearly.
Since that time Mr. Morrison has resigned and Mr. Warner Westervelt has been named to succeed him at the same salary; and the board of assessors has been terminated and A. R. Raymond name Assessor at $4,000, and for so long a time as he may need them he has been allowed two assistants.
Frames First Budget
The first serious Matter to engage the attention of the new council, after these appointments were decided upon, was to frame the 1931 budget. To aid in this task it appointed, as authorized by law, an advisory board of finance and assessments, to serve without pay, and made up of the following citizens: Charles A. Wiener, Irwin G. Ross, Joseph A. Kenyon, Robert P. Lewis and C. L. Wedell. This board worked with the township manager, who submitted a tentative budget which on public hearing was adopted with very slight change. The final budget showed a reduction of more than $83,000 net, compared with the 1930 budget, despite the fact that the 1931 budget included mandatory increases in various items that aggregated more than $40,000. There was a sharp increase in the county tax rate, yet the total tax rate in the township was reduced 62 points, or from $6.08 to $5.46 on every 100 of assessed valuation.
Taxes Down 10 Percent
How these reductions were brought about was told in detail in an article first published in the National Municipal Review, of which copies were distributed with the October issue of THE TOWN MANAGER. It is not necessary, therefore, to repeat details here, nor will space permit. Teaneck taxpayers had convincing proof, when they received their 1931 tax bills and found them a little better than ten per cent lower than the 1930 tax bills.
Other advisory boards, created to assist the council in its work by research and investigation in various fields, are as follows:
Advisory Board on Public Safety – Howard B. Ward, George Hagerdorn, George Fox, John Treibert and Albert N. Berg.
Advisory Board on Public Health – Dr. A. W. Pindar, Wm. B. Prout, F. Dilger, J. N. Harney and B. S. Bookstaver.
Advisory Board on Building Code Revision – B. F. McGuire, J. A. McCarroll, F. T. Hatch, George Fox and E. J. Hazard
Advisory Board on Charity – Frank S. DeRonde, N. E. Peieff, C. J. Bonneville, Robert A. Shaw and Charles A. Wild.
Advisory Board on Public and Local Improvements – Charles A. Weiner, Charles W. Weidig, John J. Appel, E. C. Fehling and George Hagedorn.
Advisory Board on Insurance Matters – Frank S. Batterson, Jr., Roy E. Williams and C. W. Hudgins.
These boards have been selected without reference to party, race or creed. They include several men who openly opposed adoption of the municipal manager government, and one who ran for office as councilman against the men elected. While the law gives them no power further than to investigate are make recommendations, their work has been of almost inestimable value to the community and their recommendations, except those deferred for later action, have had the unanimous approval of council.
On recommendation of the Public Safety Board, examinations have been held to establish lists of eligibles for appointment to the police and fire department, so that appointments may be made on the basis of qualification and not left to personal choice, favoritism or any other factor.
From the top of the police list of eligibles the council has created a police reserve of twelve, who can be sworn in for duty in any emergency which in the judgment of the chief of police may require extra police, and who are to be paid on when they serve.
Both these eligible lists were created with a view to applying to these departments the principle of civil service.
A new assessment commission has been appointed, consisting of A. C. Mau, John Maher and C. W. Hudgins, and is at work undertaking to clear up several assessment matters inherited from former administrations.
An adjustment board has been appointed consisting of C. F. Donaldson, B. F. McGuire, F. T. Hatch, Milton Votee and James Birch, before which are heard all appeals for exemption from the provisions of the zoning ordinance.
Creates Planning Board
Most recently, the council has created a Township Planning Board, under the provisions of the state law, which gives the board, when its plans have been approved by council, wide power in determining all zoning questions and matters that shall fix the lines along which the community shall develop. This board is made up of the following: Frederic Andreas, Mrs. Fairchild N. Ferry, Geo B. Hitchcock, A. A. Jensen, Miss Mattie Scott, Milton G. Votee, Councilman Frederick T. Warner, assessor A. R. Raymond and Township Manager Paul A. Volcker.
The foregoing deals chiefly with the personnel and functions of the body of men who under the municipal manager law now constitute the government of Teaneck work of a new form of government and get it functioning has required a large share of the time and thought of the council in its first year in office.
Yet despite the limitations imposed by an economical “bread and butter budget,” the new administration has found it possible to bring about many improvements in Teaneck.
One of its first efforts was to secure for Teaneck its fair share of expenditure of county funds. Out of a list of more than a dozen demands the council laid before the Board of Chosen Freeholders, the board promised only one of importance – that it would put in the storm drains and pave Cedar Lane out to the curb line, from Garrison Avenue west to River road, if the township would put in the curb. That was an easy promise to make, for the freeholders know the township could sell no bonds to build curbs, due to its having obligations in excess of its debt limit.
Gets Cedar Lane Paved
But as the result of a canvas instigated by the Council, the Taxpayers owning property on that part of Cedar Lane were induced by lay the curbs at their own expense. Free engineering supervision was furnished by the township’s engineering department, and the work of widening the paving to the curb line is now nearing completion. The property owners gave their consent readily. They would have had to pay for the improvement later in the form of assessments, in any event.
Out of budget funds, and with the co-operation of Councilman Frederick T. Warner, who furnished the plans and specifications without cost, the council provided the first free public playground for children in Teaneck, in the municipal building grounds, and it was opened with appropriate ceremony on July 4.
Stops “Busting” Tickets
Through a system put into effect with the approval and co-operation of the township manager, who is administrative head of the police department, and of Police Chief Cornelius J. Harte and his force, the council has established the rule that no police tickets issued in Teaneck can be cancelled. The “busting” of summonses has been stopped. At two inspections the police force has had it impressed up them that the police of Teaneck are no longer called upon to show partiality or favoritism to anyone for political reasons, and that their only aim must be give the township the best possible police protections.
Two of the force have been removed for cause, and in several instances police work of special merit has been rewarded.
By direction of council, the township manager has been conducting an investigation into the question of garbage collection and removal, to afford a basis for determining whether the methods now in effect in Teaneck can be improved upon.
Out of budget funds, a motor street sweeper has been purchased and put into use, and the township streets in 1931 have been swept better and far more frequently than ever before.
Dirt Streets Improved
Several miles of dirt roads in sections already built up – and where permanent paving cannot be done until the township can again sell bonds – have been made passable with center fill of broken shale rock, covered with gravel or cinder top. This work, too, has been done out of budget funds. How effective it will prove cannot be determined until the roads have been subjected to the test of winter.
Paving repairs have been done by the hot patch method at less cost and with better results than the old method.
Many of the improvements brought about in Teaneck have been due to the initiative and constructive thought of the council; but to a very large extent, especially with reference to administrative and practical economies, they are the kind of improvements that are inherent in, and dependent upon the municipal manager form of government itself. One of the chief advantages of this form of government lies in the fact that it requires the employment of a full time manager, devoting all his efforts to bring about efficient and economical handling of the township’s business.
The members of the council feel that their judgment in selecting Paul A. Volcker for that position has been amply justified by his achievements.