The Township of Ocean is a political unit. That is to say it has a single government which collects property tax and exercises its authority within its boundaries. (Oakhurst, Wanamassa, Wayside, West Deal, and other sections are neighborhoods within the Township and not themselves legal political entities.) The Township government exists to provide services and to plan for and preserve the character of the community.

Relationship of State and Township

The authority for municipal government is established in the New Jersey Constitution. The Constitution does not directly empower municipalities to govern, but instead directs the state legislature to pass laws that create that authority. It does say that the powers granted to local governments should be liberally interpreted in their favor.

In fact, laws passed by the state legislature have given local governments considerable power. These laws fall into two categories: Mandatory—things the local municipality must do, and Permissive—things the local municipality may do.

Following a strong New Jersey tradition of “home rule,” municipalities are free to govern within the framework of their state-given authority. In general, the state imposes itself in municipal affairs only in areas where:

The legislature has placed restrictions on municipalities in response to specific pressures. For example, when the state income tax was passed in 1976, state law-makers imposed a cap or limit on the annual increase in local budgets (a move seen by many as an attempt to defuse public resistance to the new tax). In 2010, budget caps were replaced by a cap on the increase in local property taxes (2% annually).

Relationship of County and Township

County government emerged as a regional arm of state government. The county exists primarily to carry out functions directed by the state in the areas of courts and law enforcement, welfare, roads, education, and the conduct of elections.

Although on its own the county exercises no jurisdiction over the municipalities, it can provide a structure for regionalizing services where that makes sense. Monmouth County, where the Township of Ocean is located, provides recreational facilities, welfare, vocational and college education, open space planning, waste disposal, drainage, transportation planning, police training, dispatching, senior citizen and library services, and more.

The cost of county government is shared by the municipalities within the county. A portion of the property tax collected by the Township is used to pay its share of the Monmouth County tax bill.

Form of Government: Council-Manager

Until 1963, the Township was governed by a Township Committee, made up of commissioners elected (as Democrats or Republicans) to run the local government and its operations. In 1963, residents voted to replace their Township Committee with a Council-Manager form of government.

The new form of government called for a five-member Township Council, chosen every four years in nonpartisan elections. The Council, in turn, chooses the Mayor from among its number. The Mayor serves as chairman for Council meetings, executes all official papers, and carries out ceremonial duties. He or she is not, however, the Township’s chief administrator.

Ocean Twp Org Chart

An organization chart for the township government can be found here.

The Council passes ordinances and sets policy. It is responsible for defining (by ordinance) the internal organization of local government into departments —but it has no direct administrative duties. In fact, state law prohibits the Council from dealing directly with department heads. Instead, the council hires a full-time professional Township Manager, who serves for an indefinite term as Ocean’s chief administrator. The Council must work as a body through the Manager on all department operations. He or she directs and supervises all municipal departments and receives and acts upon citizen complaints. The Manager is responsible for hiring and firing department employees, for training policies and all purchasing (subject to some statutory restrictions).

The Manager prepares and submits the township budget to the Council for approval. He or she maintains control of the budget and oversees department spending. Items over $17,500 must be submitted to competitive bids. In certain cases, the township can purchase from state-approved bidders at a cost level submitted by the state without local bidding.

The Township Manager may be removed by a majority vote of the council after the adoption of a preliminary resolution giving reasons for dismissal and a public hearing if one is requested by the Manager.

Appointed Professionals

Both the Council and Manager appoint professionals to whom they entrust specialized tasks and from whom they expect skilled and expert advice. In addition, both Council and Manager are empowered to appoint citizens who serve without pay to specific boards, commissions, and committees to advise and assist them. The organization of the Township’s staff, and responsibilities of both appointed and elected officials, are defined in the administrative code, chapter two of the local ordinances (according to the specifications of state law).

Council Appointments

The council is required to appoint certain professionals who are accountable to them to assist in the execution of their legislative, policy-making functions. The appointments are made by Council resolution.

Township Clerk - The township clerk is tenured after appointment to two consecutive three-year terms. He/she acts as elections administrator for the Township and chief registrar of voters, secretary to the council and the municipal corporation, and custodian of records and the municipal seal.

Township Attorney - The Township Attorney is on retainer and is paid hourly for any work not covered under the retainer agreement. He/she attends all council meetings and is responsible for preparing legal documents (including ordinances and contracts), reviewing and approving contracts and deeds, settling litigation and maintaining legal records on all matters relating to Township government.

Township Auditor - The council appoints a registered Municipal Accountant, who is certified through examination by the state board of certified public accountants, and advises the Council, Manager, and Director of Finance on financial matters and performs an official yearly audit.

Township Engineer - A licensed professional township engineer serves as technical advisor to the manager and council, while the Planning Board and Board of Adjustment appoint their own professional engineers. The engineer prepares designs for drainage, roads, recreational facilities, and other public works; and the engineer reviews applications submitted to the Planning Board.

Municipal Judge

Manager Appointments

The Township Manager oversees the Police, Community Development, Human Services, Finance, Public Works, and Administrative Departments. He/she heads the Administrative Department and appoints (and removes) the heads of the others. Of the manager’s appointments, the positions of Director of Finance, Tax Collector, and Tax Assessor are mandated by State statute. To ensure professionalism, the State requires certification for critical positions. And to insulate professionals from political spoils, the State imposes itself in the severance procedures for certain certified personnel (the Director of Finance, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, and Chief of Police, for example).

Township staff is not part of the Civil Service System. Of the Township employees, only members of the Public Works Department (Teamsters) and the Police Department (PBA and SOA) are represented by unions.

Citizens in Government

The township council may appoint (or authorize the manager to appoint) boards, committees, or commissions to act as advisors or to conduct investigations. These bodies differ in their powers and duties depending upon the source of their authority (State law, local ordinance, resolution of council). The men and women participating serve without pay.

Appointed by Mayor or Council

Appointed by Manager

Special Units

State law allows for special governing units to exist within the Township and outside the jurisdiction of the municipal government. Among these autonomous special units are:

Authorities - An authority can be created by the Township Council according to state guidelines to perform a specific function. Although its members are appointed by the Council, an authority operates independently as a public corporation with the power to levy taxes, collect service charges, and issue bonds. Two exist in Ocean Township: the Sewerage Authority and the Senior Citizens Housing Authority, a not-for-profit housing corporation that oversees the operation and management of Poplar Village, a 93-unit senior affordable housing complex.

Special Districts - A special district is an independent government, run by an elected board of commissioners, created within the township to serve a specific function. It has the power to tax within its geographic boundaries, impose service charges, and incur debt. In Ocean Township, the fire districts are in this category.

School Board - The Board of Education is a separate and independent legal entity, not subject to the control or supervision of the municipality. Although it responds to local needs, the Board operates as an arm of the state legislature.