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Local government in Pennsylvania is government below the state level in Pennsylvania. There are six types of local governments listed in the Pennsylvania Constitution: county, township, borough, town, city, and school district.All of Pennsylvania is included in one of the state's 67 counties, which are in total subdivided into 2,561 municipalities. There are currently no independent cities or unincorporated territories within Pennsylvania.
Local municipalities can be governed by statutes, which are enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and are specific to the type and class of municipality; by a home rule municipality, under a home rule charter, adopted by the municipality; or by an optional form of government, adopted by the municipality.The township is the basic population center or town element in Pennsylvania, ranging in size from small hamlets to small towns. These are given Class I or Class II powers, attributes, and responsibilities, and comprise the majority of communities in Pennsylvania. They are often characterized by lower population densities over a widespread region, within which small clusters of housing and mixed main road businesses occur.
Larger, more densely populated municipal entities, usually ones with a well defined business district and recognizable as having the traditional attributes of a 'town' is the Pennsylvania borough. There is a single (for historic reasons) town in Pennsylvania, so the next step up is the city. Both counties and School Districts general span multiples of communities, including groups of municipalities that sometimes cross county lines. Each other subdivision is subordinate to county governmental functions, which include administration of courts, jails, code enforcement, and land registration.
Each municipality falls under a certain type of municipal laws by the classification of municipality, and some types of municipalities are then eligible to be reclassified into another class according to their population and passage of a change referendum. These classes limit or expand the local governmental powers, and the forms of local office holders and town officials. The General Assembly sets the population threshold for classifying said certain types of municipalities. There are currently nine classifications for counties, four classes of cities, two classes of townships, five classes of school districts, and no classes for boroughs or the single Pennsylvania town.
Finally, villages and census-designated places are a part of the local community. Although they are not recognized local governments, they often refer to specific areas of township or other municipality and are often more familiar to people than the incorporated municipality. That can cause confusion to people who live outside the area, who are unfamiliar with the local municipal structure.
Counties in Pennsylvania serve the traditional roles for state including law enforcement, judicial administration, and election conduct. Some of the other functions that Pennsylvania's counties may perform include public health, property assessment, and redevelopment. Some of the welfare functions often performed by counties include mental health, geriatric care, community colleges, and library support.
Pennsylvania is divided into 67 counties. Most counties are governed by a board of commissioners, consisting of three members. Two must be of the majority party, and the third must be of the minority party, which is determined by which candidates receive the most votes, as two candidates from each party are on the November ballot. One of the members serves as the chair. The board of commissioners typically serves as both the legislative and executive body. In addition to the elected commissioners, most counties elect other officials, commonly called "row officers," independent of the board of commissioners. The offices include sheriff, district attorney, prothonotary, clerk of courts, register of wills, clerk of the orphans' court, recorder of deeds, treasurer, controller, auditors, and jury commissioners.
Seven counties currently have home rule charters: Allegheny, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, and Northampton. Philadelphia is a consolidated city-county with all of its county functions being administered by the city government.Those counties have the types of officials elected determined by the home rule charter, and they often differ from the officials elected in most counties.
Counties are further classified by population. Each classification has its own code, set up by the General Assembly, to administer county functions. The classification of counties is as follows:
|Class||Max. Population||Min. Population||Number||Counties|
|Second A||799,999||500,000||3||Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery|
|Third||499,999||210,000*||12||Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster*, Lehigh, Luzerne, Northampton, Westmoreland, York|
|Fourth||209,999||145,000||9||Beaver, Butler, Cambria+, Centre, Fayette+, Franklin, Monroe, Schuylkill, Washington|
|Fifth||144,999||90,000||7||Adams, Blair, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lycoming, Mercer, Northumberland|
|Sixth||89,999||45,000~||24||Armstrong, Bedford, Bradford, Carbon, Clarion~, Clearfield, Clinton~, Columbia, Crawford, Elk+~, Greene~, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, McKean+, Mifflin, Perry, Pike, Somerset, Susquehanna~, Tioga~, Venango, Warren+, Wayne|
|Seventh||44,999||20,000||4||Juniata, Snyder, Union, Wyoming|
|Eighth||19,999||0||6||Cameron, Forest, Fulton, Montour, Potter, Sullivan|
(*): A county of the third class that is determined to have a population of 500,000 or more may elect to continue to be a county of the third class.
(~): A county having a population between 35,000 and 44,999 may elect to be a county of the sixth class.
(+): A county's population must be under the minimum for a class for two (2) censuses prior to a reduction in class.
Keeping in mind that the geography and geology of Pennsylvania present many landscapes that are dominated by hills, streams, deep valleys, and mountain ridges, the list of municipalities of Pennsylvania range from higher numbers of entities with small populations in sparsely populated large regions, to those large in population, with less relative territory having denser populations. Pennsylvania's municipal classes are: townships, boroughs and cities. Most such subdivisions are entirely contained within a county. Some, like Bethlehem, cross county lines. It is not unusual for a borough to be adjacent to, and sometimes nearly surrounded by a township of the same name.
Below the county level of organized services, everyone in Pennsylvania lives under the jurisdiction of at least two types of municipal governments. The first type of municipal government will provide police and fire protection, maintenance of local roads and streets, water supply, sewage collection and treatment, parking and traffic control, local planning and zoning, parks and recreation, garbage collection, health services, libraries, licensing of businesses, and code enforcement. The second type will administer the local schools, claim a separate portion of taxes and are called school districts. Organized along practical geographic lines, an occasional Area school district will cross county boundaries, though most are located within county regions providing community ties across multiple municipalities. The sense of belonging to a community in Pennsylvania is often tied to area High School sports teams.
Due to historic legalisms, Bloomsburg is the only officially designated and incorporated "town" in Pennsylvania, but is nonetheless administered by the borough code and is classified (for legal purposes) as such boroughs by the state. The mostly uninhabited, township-sized area of the East Fork Road District was classified as a sui generis district, unlike any other in the state, until its 2004 dissolution.
Unincorporated communities in the state of Pennsylvania are well-defined communities that are part of one or more incorporated municipalities but are not independent municipalities in their own right. They have no elected form of government and have no authority granted to them by the state or county, but have a historical authority all their own. Often they are little more than neighborhoods once serviced by a railway station, that once had a post office in the 19th century, or were clustered as supporting community housing for a local industry, which may no longer exist. Many unincorporated communities though, often overshadow the true municipal government. King of Prussia is an example of an unincorporated community that tends to be better known than Upper Merion, the municipality King of Prussia actually resides in.
These communities can be small, cross-roads type areas with a few homes and businesses or they can be large business complexes with relatively few residents but a strong commercial center. They can also be simply recognized for prior historical relevance which carries on as they are referenced by new generations.
Villages in Pennsylvania are often small communities within a township that chose not to incorporate into a borough. Many villages are identified by the familiar PennDOT sign along a state highway. Lahaska is an example of typical village in suburban Pennsylvania.
These are areas recognized by the United States Census Bureau for enumeration purposes. Many Census-designated places are also names of villages or post offices that tie a community together. The steep forested landscape and terrains of Pennsylvania generally forced settlements into relatively small areas that had appropriate conditions making it easy to build. Modern heavy machinery has broadened the scope of where housing settlements and business can be situated, but at the cost of moving a lot of soils and rocks.
Townships in Pennsylvania were the first form of land grants established by William Penn, and are generally large in area with a sparse population centered on one or a few clusters of homes and a handful of businesses. They have existed in one form or another since the Province of Pennsylvania was established.They were usually large tracts of land given to a person, a family, or a group of people by Penn or his heirs.
Townships can be of the first or second class, the difference being the powers and offices of the municipal government or its officials. All begin as second class townships, and when certain legal requirements are met, the township may become a first-class township by a referendum of the township's voters, provided it meets population threshold requirements. Many that qualify prefer to continue as second class townships (established by voter referendum).
Representation in a second-class township is by a board of supervisors elected at-large for 6 year terms. Representation in a first-class township is by a board of commissioners that can consist of anywhere from five commissioners elected at large to boards with 7-15 elected by wards to four-year terms; though via home rule petitions, some townships have also maintained at-large representation, or mixed geographical wards and at-large election organization. By law there is always an odd number of 'township commissioners'.
A second-class township usually has three supervisors, elected at large for six-year terms. A referendum may allow a second-class township's board of supervisors to expand to five members. Some townships have home-rule charters, which allow for a mayor/council form of government.
What outside Pennsylvania many would think are called "towns" are by law officially boroughs (often also spelled as boros) which are generally smaller than cities in terms of both geographic area and population. Most cities in Pennsylvania were once incorporated as a borough before becoming a city, and both began under the constitution as a township. Boroughs are not strictly classified by population and are administered through the borough legal code. Each borough elects a weak mayor and a council of three, five, seven, or nine members with broad powers, as determined by home rule measures. The borough offices of tax assessor, tax collector and auditor are elected independently. The borough council can also hire a borough manager to enforce ordinances and carry out the day-to-day business of the town's administration and dictates of its council. The definition of boroughs is a town or district that is an administrative unit, in particular. Nineteen boroughs have also adopted home rule charters.
Boroughs generally incorporate from areas of dense populations in a township. The areas generally had a train station and were centers of businesses and industrial activities. The first borough to be incorporated in Pennsylvania was Germantown in 1690.That borough ceased to exist when all of Philadelphia's municipalities were consolidated in 1854. The borough of Chester Heights has a unique distinction of incorporating into a borough out of Aston Township by a tax revolt.
From the late 18th century until the Philadelphia Act of Consolidation in 1854, districts were politically independent municipalities made up of densely populated neighborhoods adjacent to but outside the legal boundaries of the City of Philadelphia. Northern Liberties, Southwark, and Spring Garden were among the ten largest municipalities by population in the United States.
There are a total of 56 incorporated cities in Pennsylvania, the smallest being Parker, in Armstrong County, with a population of 840 (2010 census). Each is further classified according to population.
There is one first class city, Philadelphia, which has more than 1 million residents.
There is also only one second class city that has a population between 250,000 and 1 million, automatically placing it under the second class laws, Pittsburgh. A city with between 80,000 and 250,000 inhabitants that has also adopted a certain ordinance can be classified as a second class city — only Scranton has done so; making two in that classification.
First and second class cities have a strong mayor and home rule charters; their charters are in effect a bargain with the state as to which powers the city takes on itself. These sometimes include county functions. The mayor has broad power to appoint and remove certain commissioners and department heads. Most of the city's functions are independent of the state's controlbecause of their charters, which must pass legislative approval.
Any municipality adopting conversion into a city government with a population below 250,000 people that has not adopted the second class ordinance is a third class city.
Third class cities can be governed three ways:
Sixteen third class cities have adopted home rule charters. Two cities (DuBois and Altoona) have an optional council-manager plan, and one city (Hazleton) has a mayor-council optional plan.
There are 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, administered by the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949. School districts can comprise one municipality, like the School District of Philadelphia, or multiple municipalities. School districts have the sole responsibility to instruct the school-aged population of the Commonwealth. Some school districts cross one or more county lines creating challenges in equalizing property taxes because of widely varying property tax assessments. Like some other local governments, school districts are classified based on population and these classifications determine what regulations they follow.
|Class||Max. Population||Min. Population|
Municipal authorities are a special kind of local unit: unlike cities, boroughs, and townships, which are general government entities, they are set up to perform special services. An authority is a body corporate and politic authorized to acquire, construct, improve, maintain, and operate projects, and to borrow money and issue bonds to finance them. Projects include public facilities such as buildings, including school buildings, transportation facilities, marketing and shopping facilities, highways, parkways, airports, parking places, waterworks, sewage treatment plants, playgrounds, hospitals, and industrial development projects.
An authority can be organized by any county, city, town, borough, township, or school district of the Commonwealth, acting singly or jointly with another municipality. An authority is established by ordinance by one or more municipalities. The governing bodies of the parent local unit or units appoint the members of the authority's board. If the body created by one unit, the board consists of five members. If the body created by two or more local units, there is at least one member from each unit but no fewer than five. The board carries on the work of the authority, acquires property, appoints officers and employees, undertakes projects, makes regulations and charges, and collects revenue from services of the facilities or projects.
A municipality is usually a single administrative division having corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regional laws to which it is subordinate. It is to be distinguished (usually) from the county, which may encompass rural territory or numerous small communities such as towns, villages and hamlets.
A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish them vary considerably between different parts of the world.
The council–manager government form is one of two predominant forms of local government in the United States and Ireland, the other being the mayor–council government form. Council–manager government form also is used in both county and city governments in the United States. The council–manager form is also used for municipal government in Canada and many other countries, both for city councils and county councils.
The administrative divisions of New York are the various units of government that provide local services, "local" meaning "not statewide", in the State of New York. The New York State Constitution standardized the names and functions of these statewide.
A town council, village council, shire council or shire or rural council is a form of local government for small municipalities.
A borough, in the context of local government in the U.S. state of New Jersey, refers to one of five types and one of eleven forms of municipal government.
Local government in the United States refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. Most states and territories have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. In some states, counties are divided into townships. There are several different types of jurisdictions at the municipal level, including the city, town, borough, and village. The types and nature of these municipal entities vary from state to state.
Massachusetts shares with the five other New England states a governmental structure known as the New England town. Only the southeastern third of the state has functioning county governments; in western, central, and northeastern Massachusetts, traditional county-level government was eliminated in the late 1990s. Generally speaking, there are four kinds of public school districts in Massachusetts: local schools, regional schools, vocational/technical schools, and charter schools.
The Optional Municipal Charter Law or Faulkner Act provides New Jersey municipalities with a variety of models of local government. This legislation is called the Faulkner Act in honor of the late Bayard H. Faulkner, former mayor of Montclair, New Jersey and chairman of the Commission on Municipal Government.
A Pennsylvania township or township under Pennsylvania laws is one class of the three types of municipalities codified, in Pennsylvania—smaller municipal class legal entities providing local self-government functions in the majority of land areas in the more rural regions. Townships act as the lowest level municipal corporations of governance of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a U.S. state of the United States of America.
A board of supervisors is a governing body that oversees the operation of county government in the American states of Arizona, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as 16 counties in New York. There are equivalent agencies in other states.
In the United States, the meaning of "village" varies by geographic area and legal jurisdiction. In many areas, "village" is a term, sometimes informal, for a type of administrative division at the local government level. Since the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from legislating on local government, the states are free to have political subdivisions called "villages" or not to and to define the word in many ways. Typically, a village is a type of municipality, although it can also be a special district or an unincorporated area. It may or may not be recognized for governmental purposes.
The state of Michigan is largely divided in the same way as many other U.S. states, but is distinct in its usage of charter townships. Michigan ranks 13th among the fifty states in terms of the number of local governmental entities.
Local government in New Jersey is composed of counties and municipalities. Local jurisdictions are simpler in New Jersey than in other states because every square foot of the state is part of exactly one municipality; each of the 565 municipalities is in exactly one county; and each of the 21 counties has more than one municipality. New Jersey has no unincorporated areas, independent cities, or consolidated city-counties.
A clerk is a senior official of many municipal governments in the English-speaking world. In some communities, including most in the United States, the position is elected, but in many others, the clerk is appointed to their post. In almost all cases, the actual title of the clerk reflects the type of municipality he or she works for, thus, instead of simply being known as the clerk, the position is generally referred to as the town clerk, township clerk, city clerk, village clerk, borough clerk, board secretary, or county clerk. Other titles also exist, such as recorder. The office has existed for centuries, though in some places it is now being merged with other positions.
The administrative divisions of Illinois are counties, townships, precincts, cities, towns, villages, and special-purpose districts. The basic subdivisions of Illinois are the 102 counties. Illinois has more units of local government than any other state—over 8,000 in all. The Constitution of 1970 created, for the first time in Illinois, a type of "home rule", which allows localities to govern themselves to a certain extent. Illinois also has several types of school districts and additional units of government that oversee many other functions.
Texas has a total of 254 counties, many cities, and numerous special districts, the most common of which is the independent school district.
The administrative divisions of Ohio are counties, municipalities, townships, special districts and school districts.