|Category||Second-level administrative division|
|Location||Commonwealth of Pennsylvania|
Under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a township is the lowest level municipal corporation of government. All of Pennsylvania's land area outside of incorporated cities, boroughs, and one town has been incorporated into a township which serves as the legal entity providing local self-government functions. In general, townships in Pennsylvania encompass larger land areas than other municipalities, and tend to be located in suburban, exurban, or rural parts of the commonwealth. As with other incorporated municipalities in Pennsylvania, townships exist within counties and are subordinate to or dependent upon the county level of government.
The creation of townships within Pennsylvania dates to the seventeenth century and the colonial period. Much of the province of Pennsylvania was occupied by Native Americans, but the colonial administration in Philadelphia brought new counties and new settlements regularly. The first communities defined by this government tended to be rural, geographically large (nearly county-sized), and sparsely populated townships.
Historically, townships or portions thereof have tended to become boroughs after population growth or an increase in population density and, eventually, might to reincorporate at the level of city. Initially, each municipal organization begins as a second-class township. When a sufficient population density, currently 300 people per square mile, is attained, the township may hold a referendum and, if it passes become a first-class township. The municipality would proceed to the level of borough or city in a similar fashion. Historically, this progression of a Pennsylvania municipality has often included border adjustments or mergers with other boroughs or townships. Many communities remain townships in spite of growth that brings the characteristics of more-urbanized areas that might be associated with "towns."
Because Pennsylvania's constitution provides for a progression of municipal structures based on population growth, it is not uncommon to have a township and borough of the same or similar name, generally adjacent within the same county. The 'town-like' borough might be partially or wholly surrounded by the remaining township from which it had split off.
For a general in depth overview of townships, see civil townships.
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Pennsylvania townships typically vary in size from 6 to 40 square miles (16–104 km2). There are two classifications of townships, first class and second class. The commonwealth initially incorporates all townships as second class townships. To become a township of the first class and operate under the powers of the First Class Township Code, a township must have a population density of 300 inhabitants per square mile (120/km2) and voters therein must approve the change of classification in a referendum.
The classes of townships differ primarily in the form of their administration. Townships of the second class are governed by a board of supervisors, elected at large by the electorate of the whole township for overlapping 6 year terms. The number of supervisors can be increased to five by referendum. Townships of the first class, by contrast, have a board of commissioners. Between five and fifteen commissioners sit on this panel; they can be elected either at large or by wards within the township; and they serve for overlapping terms of four years in office. Other elected officials include a tax collector and, in many townships, a panel of three auditors who annually audit all township accounts. The supervisors or commissioners of the township appoint a secretary and a treasurer, and may also appoint a township manager to coordinate township employees and operations.
County governments may provide some or all municipal services to residents of townships, regardless of class and size, including trash collection or sewage processing. Some counties, though, leave individual municipalities to provide their own services; in some instances small groups of boroughs or townships may pool their resources to provide water, police, or other functions. The main areas of local services include 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. All municipalities in Pennsylvania, however, rely on county and state organized courts for probate, criminal, and civil court services.
Under the Pennsylvania constitution, each governmental entity has the right to choose its own form of self-government, and a limited ability to delegate powers and oversight to such entities as authorities, commissions and school boards.Any township, regardless of its class, may adopt a home rule charter, at which point it is no longer governed by the Pennsylvania Township Codes. While a home rule charter can incorporate unusual features, standard municipal functions are generally part of the mix regardless of how offices and powers are allocated within the jurisdiction.
A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French conté or cunté denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount. Literal equivalents in other languages, derived from the equivalent of "count", are now seldom used officially, including comté, contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, and zhupa in Slavic languages; terms equivalent to English language administrative terms such as municipality, district, circuit and commune/community are now often instead used.
A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world.
In the United States, a county is an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority. The term "county" is used in 48 U.S. states, while Louisiana and Alaska have functionally equivalent subdivisions called parishes and boroughs, respectively.
An unincorporated area is a region not governed by a local municipal corporation. Similarly, an unincorporated community is a settlement not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but is administered as part of larger administrative divisions, such as a township, parish, borough, county, city, canton, state, province, or country. Occasionally, municipalities dissolve or disincorporate, which may happen if they become fiscally insolvent, and services become the responsibility of a higher administration. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Canada. Most other countries of the world have either no unincorporated areas at all, or these are very rare; typically remote, outlying, sparsely populated, or uninhabited areas.
A civil township is a widely used unit of local government in the United States that is subordinate to a county. The term town is used in New England, New York, and Wisconsin to refer to the equivalent of the civil township in these states. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary based on each state. Civil townships are distinct from survey townships, but in states that have both, the boundaries often coincide and may completely geographically subdivide a county. The U.S. Census Bureau classifies civil townships as minor civil divisions. Currently, there are 20 states with civil townships.
The administrative divisions of New York are the various units of government that provide local services in the State of New York. The state is divided into boroughs, counties, cities, townships, called "towns", and villages. They are municipal corporations, chartered (created) by the New York State Legislature, under the New York State Constitution the only body that can create governmental units in the state. All of them have their own governments, sometimes with no paid employees, that provide local services. Centers of population that are not incorporated and have no government or local services are designated hamlets. Whether a municipality is defined as a borough, city, town, or village is determined not by population or land area, but rather on the form of government selected by the residents and approved by the New York Legislature. Each type of local government is granted specific home rule powers by the New York State Constitution. There are still occasional changes as a village becomes a city, or a village dissolves, each of which requires legislative action. New York also has various corporate entities that provide local services and have their own administrative structures (governments), such as school and fire districts. These are not found in all counties.
A township, in the context of New Jersey local government, refers to one of five types and one of eleven forms of municipal government. As a political entity, a township in New Jersey is a full-fledged municipality, on par with any town, city, borough, or village. They collect property taxes and provide services such as maintaining roads, garbage collection, water, sewer, schools, police and fire protection. The Township form of local government is used by 27% of New Jersey municipalities; however, slightly over 50% of the state's population resides within them.
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. In addition to these general-purpose local governments, states may also create special-purpose local governments.
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 borough in some U.S. states is a unit of local government or other administrative division below the level of the state. The term is currently used in six states:
The town is the basic unit of local government and local division of state authority in the six New England states. Most other U.S. states lack a direct counterpart to the New England town. New England towns overlay the entire area of a state, similar to civil townships in other states where they exist, but they are fully functioning municipal corporations, possessing powers similar to cities in other states. New Jersey's system of equally powerful townships, boroughs, towns, and cities is the system which is most similar to that of New England. New England towns are often governed by a town meeting legislative body. The great majority of municipal corporations in New England are based on the town model; there, statutory forms based on the concept of a compact populated place are uncommon, though elsewhere in the U.S. they are prevalent. County government in New England states is typically weak at best, and in some states nonexistent. Connecticut, for example, has no county governments, nor does Rhode Island. Both of those states retain counties only as geographic subdivisions with no governmental authority, while Massachusetts has abolished eight of fourteen county governments so far. Counties serve mostly as dividing lines for the states' judicial systems in the southern New England states, while only providing limited services in the three northern New England states.
In the U.S. commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a borough is a self-governing municipal entity, best thought of as a town, usually smaller than a city, but with a similar population density in its residential areas. Sometimes thought of as "junior cities", boroughs generally have fewer powers and responsibilities than full-fledged cities.
The administrative divisions of Wisconsin include counties, cities, villages and towns. In Wisconsin, all of these are units of general-purpose local government. There are also a number of special-purpose districts formed to handle regional concerns, such as school districts.
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.
A home rule municipality in Pennsylvania is one incorporated under its own unique charter, created pursuant to the state's Home Rule and Optional Plans Law and approved by referendum. "Local governments without home rule can only act where specifically authorized by state law; home rule municipalities can act anywhere except where they are specifically limited by state law". Although many such municipalities have retained the word "Township" or "Borough" in their official names, the Pennsylvania Township and Borough Codes no longer apply to them. All three types of municipalities may become a home rule municipality.
Local government in New Jersey is composed of counties and municipalities. Local jurisdictions in New Jersey differ from those in some 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 independent cities, or consolidated city-counties.
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. There is only one incorporated town in Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, but it is effectively a borough as it is governed under the same set of laws.
City limits or city boundaries refer to the defined boundary or border of a city. The area within the city limit can be called the city proper. Town limit/boundary and village limit/boundary apply to towns and villages. Similarly, corporate limit is a legal name that refers to the boundary of municipal corporations. In some countries, the limit of a municipality may be expanded through annexation.
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 the UK, a Town or Parish clerk is appointed by the Town or Parish Council Members. 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 Ohio are counties, municipalities, townships, special districts and school districts.
The eleven elected county officers are enumerated in the Pennsylvania Constitution, but their powers and duties are prescribed by statutes located throughout the county codes and general state laws. Consolidation of certain offices in smaller counties involves the offices of prothonotary, clerk of courts, register of wills and recorder of deeds.
The original reason for establishing authorities was the restriction on incurring municipal debt imposed by the Commonwealth prior to the 1968 constitutional amendments, but they have proven useful mechanisms, particularly for joint municipal projects. As of January 2010, there were 1,539 active authorities in Pennsylvania.
For a survey article on the powers and organization of Pennsylvania government, see.