Proposed changes to New Albany's charter are headed to the Nov. 5 general-election ballot.

New Albany City Council on June 18 unanimously approved an ordinance that details the edits to the charter recommended by the city's charter-review committee.

The revised charter has been sent to the Franklin County Board of Elections to be certified as a ballot issue, well ahead of the board's Aug. 7 deadline, according to city attorney Mitch Banchefsky.

New Albany leaders also will choose whether to mail a copy of the revised charter to all voters prior to the election or publish it in a newspaper, he said.

If the changes are approved by New Albany voters Nov. 5, they would go into effect Jan. 1, Banchefsky said.

Matt Shull, a council member who was part of the charter-review committee, said the charter is a type of local constitution that reflects how local governments are run.

Most of the changes are housekeeping in nature, Banchefsky said.

Examples include changing references from "village" to "city" (New Albany officially became a city in 2011 after surpassing the U.S. Census Bureau's population threshold of 5,000) and defining the city's form of government as a council-manager plan.

Other changes would include:

* Making it clear that any qualified council member or other qualified individual may serve as magistrate for New Albany Mayor's Court. Lawyers with the required training may preside over the court, Banchefsky said.

* Selecting a new president pro tempore every year instead of every two years.

* Allowing City Council to begin proceedings to compel a member to forfeit his or her seat if he or she has three unexcused regular-meeting absences in a 12-month period. The current charter says three consecutive meeting absences are required to begin this process.

* Labeling any police positions above the level of sergeant as unclassified. Officers at sergeant rank and below currently are classified employees and would continue to be, Banchefsky said. The chief is the department's only unclassified employee, so the change would help the department if it chose to add other higher-ranked leaders, he said.

This is the third time the city has had a chance to revise its charter, Mayor Sloan Spalding said.

It's important as a charter community to carefully review and update the charter, he said.

"It's basically our constitution," Spalding said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

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