Supervisor. The Town Law does not provide for a separate
executive branch of town government. Because the supervisor occupies
the leader's position on the town board, and because town residents
often turn to the supervisor with their problems, many people
think the supervisor's position is the executive position of town
government. But the supervisor is also part of the legislative
branch as a member and presiding officer of the town board. He
or she acts as a full member of the board, voting on all questions
and having no additional tie-breaking or veto power
The supervisor is more of an administrator than an executive.
The supervisor's duties under law are to: act as treasurer and
have care and custody of monies belonging to the town; disburse
monies; keep an accurate and complete account of all monies; make
reports as required; pay fixed salaries and other claims; and
lease, sell, and convey properties of the town, when so directed
by the town board.
The basic source of the supervisor's power lies in the position's
traditional political leadership, and the holder's ability to
use this leadership. Familiarity with day-to-day problems of the
town often enables the supervisor to influence the policy decisions
of the town board.
In 1938, provision was made in the Town Law for a town manager
form of government, which would have made possible a greater executive
coordination of town functions. The idea did not catch on at that
time, and the provisions were repealed in 1957. In 1972, however,
the State Legislature enacted special legislation authorizing
the Town of Fallsburg to adopt a town manager plan. Then, in 1976,
Article 3-B of the Town Law was enacted, once again enabling any
town, by local law, to establish a town
manager form of government. As of 1998, the Towns of Collins,
Erwin, Mount Kisco, Putnam and Southampton were operating under
a town manager form of government.
By delegating a few more specific powers the Suburban Town Law
gives the supervisor a bit more authority. Although designated
as "chief executive officer," however, the Suburban
Town supervisor has no major new executive powers.
In 1971, the Town Law was amended to allow town boards in towns
of the second class to exercise the option of removing town justices
from the town board and electing two additional town councilpersons.
In 1976, the Legislature amended the Town Law once again, separating
the legislative and judicial functions in all town governments
by removing town justices from town boards.
One of the distinguishing features of town government organization
is the lack of a strong executive branch. Virtually all of a town's
discretionary authority rests with the town board. What little
executive power the supervisor has is granted by specific statute
or by the town board. The town board, therefore, exercises both
legislative and executive functions. This situation is not very
different from the basic form of government prescribed by state
law for counties, cities and villages. What is different, however,
until recently, towns did not possess the same degree of home
rule powers granted to the other units of government to change
the basic prescribed forms of government.