Goldmann, Sullivan and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.
This appeal involves the question of whether a salary ordinance proposed by an initiative petition filed under the Faulkner Act should be placed on the ballot of the November 3, 1964 general election to be voted upon by the citizens of West Orange.
West Orange is a Faulkner Act municipality. Defendants Katz, Kraeuter, Lind, Messeri and Rossi are citizens and voters of West Orange, and compose the committee of petitioners provided for under the initiative and referendum provisions of the Faulkner Act, N.J.S.A. 40:69A-186. Plaintiffs are members of the West Orange Fire Department.
The present dispute had its origin in November 1963 when certain interested citizens of West Orange, including members of the Citizens League, a civic organization active in local affairs during recent years, attended a hearing at which the proposed budget for 1964 was discussed. The fire department had made no request for a general pay increase, but immediately following the public hearing it amended its budget request, asking for increases in salary ranges for all firemen except the chief and assistant chiefs. The proposed amendment rekindled a debate of the year before regarding the salaries of firemen. At that time the Citizens League had, as a result of a study, reached the conclusion that because of recent firemen's salary increases and a reduction in their work hours, no further increases would be justified. Accordingly, the League and other citizens objected to the fire department's
request for increases during the fiscal year 1964. Detailed objections were filed with the town council when the proposed budget received its first reading in February 1964. The League, recognizing that the council was inclined to grant the requested increases notwithstanding the objections raised, began to circulate the ordinance petition in question. It ultimately obtained some 3,000 signatures, more than required under N.J.S.A. 40:69A-184.
The West Orange governing body had on February 7, 1961 adopted ordinance No. 1922, setting up a comprehensive salary schedule for all municipal employees, including titles, classifications and minimum-maximum salary ranges. On June 2, 1964 it introduced ordinance No. 44-64 amending ordinance No. 1922 by changing the salary ranges for over 70 full-time positions, and providing that they should be retrospectively effective as of January 1. The ordinance had its second and final reading on June 16 and became legally effective July 7. Under its terms the existing salary ranges of patrolmen and firemen, as set out in ordinance No. 1922, were amended from $4,753-6,589 to $5,164-7,000. The ranges for police lieutenants and fire captains were amended from $6,647-8,641 to $7,002-9,000. No referendum petition protesting the passage of ordinance No. 44-64 was ever filed with the town clerk, as authorized by N.J.S.A. 40:69A-185.
On June 12, 1964, after the introduction of ordinance No. 44-64 but prior to its final passage, defendants, who constituted the committee of petitioners, filed an initiative petition with the town clerk. The petition proposed that the 1961 salary ordinance "be further amended" by the town council so as to provide in pertinent part as follows:
a. The maximum of the salary range for uniformed fire personnel, on file in the office of the Town Clerk, shall not be changed during 1964;
b. The maximum of the salary range for uniformed fire personnel, on file in the office of the Town Clerk, shall not be changed during 1965 and 1966;
c. The maximum of the salary range for Patrolmen, on file in the office of the Town Clerk, shall be two annual increments of $306.00 each in excess of the maximum of the salary range for ...