Responsibilities shift based on type of Columbia city government

dhinshaw@thestate.comNovember 14, 2013 

(left) Nicholas Sumbles, of Columbia, collects signatures for the "Strong Mayor" petition at the Saturday morning market on Main Street. (right) Allen Fisher holds a sign opposing a strong-mayor form of government.

THE STATE

  • Voters invited to “strong-mayor’ forums Three upcoming forums will engage Columbia voters in discussions about the city’s form of government. They are:

    •  Nov. 14 – 7 p.m., Hampton Park, 1117 Brandon Ave.

    •  Nov. 18 – 6 p.m., St. Andrews Middle School, 1231 Bluefield Road

    •  Nov. 21 – 6:30 p.m., Bishops Memorial Church, 2221 Washington St.

    On Dec. 3, voters will be asked whether to change from the current council-manager form of government to the mayor-council form, often called strong-mayor.

On Dec. 3, Columbia voters will decide whether to change the city’s form of government.

Wednesday, Scott Slatton of the Municipal Association of South Carolina outlined for about two dozen people the responsibilities of the mayor and the six-member council under the current form of government, called the council-manager form; and under the proposed new form of city government, the mayor-council form, often called strong-mayor.

The powers, roles and responsibilities of the mayor, the council and staff are different based on the type of government voters choose:

HIRING

Council-manager form

The city manager, hired by the mayor and council, is responsible for hiring and firing almost all city employees. The city manager sets salaries. The mayor and council members are forbidden by law from interfering with operations of city departments and they may have no direct involvement in hiring or firing. Slatton said, however, that he had never heard of anyone prosecuted in South Carolina for breaking that law.

Mayor-council form

The mayor is responsible for all personnel decisions. The mayor sets salaries. The mayor may hire an administrator to assist him if the council approves.

BUDGETING

Council-manager form

The city manager presents a proposed budget to the mayor and council for adoption. They can approve or revise it. The city manager then administers the budget, which the council can use to affect hiring and priorities.

Mayor-council form

The mayor presents a proposed budget to the council, which can approve or revise it. The mayor then administers the budget. The council decides whether the mayor can move money among departments, using the budget to affect the mayor’s hiring and priorities.

SETTING POLICY

Council-manager form

The mayor and council pass laws and set policies, which are carried out by the city manager. The city manager does not have a vote. The city manager is considered the city’s chief operating officer.

Mayor-council form

The mayor and council pass laws and sets policies, which are carried out by the mayor. The mayor is considered the city’s chief operating officer.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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