Voters in the Borough of Spring Lake Heights (Monmouth County) employed a little-used statutory mechanism to force the Borough Council to reconsider two ordinances that would have raised salaries for some Borough officers and employees. The purpose of this posting is to explain the mechanism so that voters in other municipalities can also avail themselves of it.

At issue are Ordinances 05-2010 and 06-2010, which were both enacted on June 14, 2010. The ordinances, respectively, sought to raise certain employee and officer salaries retroactively to January 1, 2009 and January 1, 2010.

On July 6, 2010, a group of citizens who call themselves “Let Those Who Pay Have The Say” submitted a petition, signed by 432 voters, invoking the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40A:9-165. That statute provides that whenever an ordinance

shall provide for increases in salaries, wages or compensation of elective officials or any managerial, executive or confidential employee, the ordinance or that portion thereof which provides an increase for such elective or appointive officials shall become operative in 20 days after the publication thereof, after final passage, unless within said 20 days, a petition signed by voters of such municipality, equal in number to at least 5% of the registered voters of the municipality, protesting against the passage of such ordinance, be presented to the governing body, in which case such ordinance shall remain inoperative unless and until a proposition for the ratification thereof shall be adopted at an election by a majority of the voters voting on said proposition.

The number of registered voters in Spring Lake Heights Borough is 3686, 5% of which is 185 voters. Accordingly, the petition was sufficient to suspend operation of the ordinances and put the two salary increase questions on the November 2, 2010 general election ballot.

On July 12, 2010, in response to the petition, the Borough Council introduced Ordinances 08-2010 and 09-2010 which will, respectively, repeal Ordinances 05-2010 and 06-2010. The two repeal ordinances will be voted upon on July 26, 2010. If they pass, there will be no need to put the salary increase questions on the November ballot.

The petition, ordinances and and the full text of N.J.S.A. 40A:9-165 are on-line here.

The statute can be used in any New Jersey municipality, including those which are not governed by Faulkner forms of government.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]