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Duties of the Supervisor

Executive Leadership

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 The idea did not catch on at that time, and the provisions were repealed in 1957.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, is that
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.

From The NYS

Local Government Handbook