How Does Government Work in Townships in Pennsylvania?

How Does Government Work in Townships in Pennsylvania?

There are three levels of government in Pennsylvania, the most localized being a municipality, otherwise known as a township. In the majority of townships, residents elect a board of three or five supervisors to govern the area and carry out actions to improve the community.

Pennsylvania has two classes of townships. All townships are second class unless first class status is approved by the voters in a referendum. To do so, a township must first have a population density of 300 persons per square mile.

In townships following the First Class Township Code, the governing body is comprised of elected officials. There are either five commissioners elected at large or up to 15 elected by wards. The commissioners have four-year overlapping terms.

Townships operating under the Second Class Township Code have a governing body of three elected supervisors who are at large for six years. If approved by the voters in a referendum, two additional supervisors are elected.

Township supervisors determine the budget, enact ordinances and levy taxes. Often, they also employ workers, enforce ordinances and approve expenditures. They oversee police, local roads, zoning, building permits and taxes.

Additionally, townships have advisory boards to help with local governance. Advisory boards guide a variety of services, including the planning commission and historical committees. Other elected positions include a tax assessor, a tax collector (second class), three auditors or a controller and a treasurer (first class). Some appointed officers are a secretary, township manager (if desired), chief of police and fire chief.