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Cuprowski v. City of Jersey City

Decided: April 30, 1968.

PAUL CUPROWSKI, MARY E. VERDIRAMO, JAMES J. MACK, FRANK S. MONACO, AND JEROME LAZARUS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND WILLIAM P. BLACK, CITY CLERK OF THE CITY OF JERSEY CITY, DEFENDANTS



Artaserse, A.j.s.c.

Artaserse

This is a proceeding in lieu of prerogative writs by the petitioners, all residents and taxpayers of Jersey City, who protest the adoption of the Jersey City municipal budget for the current year.

On April 5, 1968 plaintiffs herein presented to the city clerk a petition allegedly signed by 35,805 residents of Jersey City protesting the city's budget for the fiscal year 1968 and requesting that the said budget be the subject of a referendum to appear on the ballot at an election held pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:69 A -185. The city clerk having refused to accept the petition, plaintiffs have instituted this action to compel the clerk to do so, it being the initial procedural step necessary for a referendum to repeal the budget. Defendants have moved for a dismissal of the complaint alleging that it does not state a legal cause of action.

It is plaintiffs' contention that the city's action in introducing, approving and adopting its budget for the current fiscal year constituted the adoption of an ordinance by the city and is therefore within the purview of N.J.S.A. 40:69 A -185, which provides as follows:

"The voters shall also have the power of referendum which is the power to approve or reject at the polls any ordinance submitted by the council to the voters or any ordinance passed by the council, against which a referendum petition has been filed as herein provided. No ordinance passed by the municipal council, except when otherwise required by general law or permitted by the provisions of section 17-32(b) of this act, shall take effect before twenty days from the time of its final passage and its approval by the mayor where such approval is required. If within twenty days after such final passage and approval of such ordinance a petition protesting against the passage of such ordinance shall be filed with the municipal clerk and if the petition shall be signed in the case of municipalities * * * of more than 70,000 inhabitants, by fifteen

per centum (15%) of the registered voters of the municipality, * * * the ordinance shall be suspended from taking effect until proceedings are had as herein provided."

N.J.S.A. 40:48-1 provides in part that:

"The governing body of every municipality may make, amend, repeal and enforce ordinances to:

Finances and property. 1. Manage, regulate and control the finances and property, real and personal, of the municipality; * * *"

N.J.S.A. 40:69 A -181(b) provides as follows:

"No ordinance other than the local budget ordinance shall take effect less than twenty days after its final passage * * *." (Emphasis added)

Plaintiffs, in effect, contend that a municipality controls and regulates its finances by means of a budget and because of the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:48-1 and N.J.S.A. 40:69 A -181(b), supra, a budget must be an ordinance within the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:69 A -185, supra, and therefore subject to referendum.

The city, on the other hand, contends that a budget is not an ordinance but rather is adopted by resolution and therefore is not within the ambit of N.J.S.A. 40:69 A -185, supra, which only pertains to ordinances. In support of its position the city points to N.J.S.A. 40 A:4-4 which is part of the Local Budget Law and provides as follows:

"All budgets shall be introduced, approved, amended and adopted by resolution passed by not less than a majority of the full membership of the governing body." (Emphasis added)

The city also contends that even if the budget is an ordinance it is not the type of ordinance that the Legislature intended should be subject to initiative and referendum.

It is well settled that statutory language will be interpreted and applied with an eye toward effectuating the intent of the Legislature. To this end courts will try to

harmonize statutes dealing with the same general subject. Loboda v. Clark Tp., 40 N.J. 424 (1963). It is also fundamental that the Legislature is presumed to be familiar with its own enactments and with judicial declarations relating to them. State v. Federanko, 26 N.J. 119 (1958). Thus, under the rules of statutory construction, statutes in pari materia are not to be construed as isolated fragments of the law, but rather as a single and complete statutory arrangement. Such statutes should be considered as if they constituted one act, so that sections of one act may be considered as though they were parts of the other act, as far as this can be reasonably done.

The words "ordinance" and "resolution" are defined in N.J.S.A. 40:49-1 as follows:

"The term 'ordinance' * * * means and includes any act or regulation of the governing body * * * required to be reduced to writing and read at more than one meeting thereof and published.

The term 'resolution' * * * means and includes any act or regulation of the governing body * * * required to be reduced to writing, but which may be finally passed at the ...


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