Town prepares for referendum

Brookhaven Town residents will cast an extra vote this November, when they are asked to decide whether or not they want to establish term limits for elected officials, and extend those terms to four years apiece.

Here is the official text of the referendum, as provided by the Brookhaven Town Clerk’s office: Should the Town Code of the Town of Brookhaven be amended to establish term limits of three (3) four-year terms for elected officials, and amend the length of term of office from two (2) years to four (4) years for all elected officials, commencing January 1, 2020?

The town clerk and tax receiver already serve four-year terms, but the new law would make town councilmembers, supervisor, and highway superintendent equal in length. The maximum amount of time an official could serve would be 12 years.

A 1993 referendum established term limits for the supervisor and councilmembers. That law was nullified in 2002, when voters chose to switch the Town of Brookhaven to a ward-district system. In the state of New York, all ward-district governments are required to have councilmembers serve two-year terms.

However, according to Town Law Section 24-A, town governments may elect to create four-year terms for elected officials. Regardless of other general law, like the statute about ward districts, “the town board of any town may adopt a resolution to provide that the term of office of each and any elective town official thereafter elected shall be four years.”

Similarly, the law requires that the resolution be confirmed by a majority of eligible voters. This resolution, if adopted, would supersede the state law regarding ward districts to allow elected officials to serve four-year terms.

There has been a strong debate at Town Hall over whether the proposal is right for the town’s government. Residents have expressed concern that the ballot referendum combines two questions into one, as seen in the text, but town officials said this was the only way to place it on the ballot. The typical arguments for and against are also present, with those for the referendum saying it allows a guaranteed turnover of power, and those against saying elections are in place to vote officials out of office, if necessary.


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