About Pa. Townships
- The township is the oldest form of government in the United States.
- Pennsylvania has 1,454 townships.
- Townships cover 95 percent of Pennsylvania’s land area.
- Townships are home to more than 5.5 million citizens in the Keystone State. That's 44 percent of the state’s population.
- Diversity is the name of the game for Pennsylvania’s townships. They range from rural communities with fewer than 200 residents to suburban communities of more than 60,000 residents.
Township residents elect supervisors to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities of improving their community. Township supervisors reflect the values of the people they serve.
By design, the structure of township government is flexible. It allows supervisors to determine what services best meet the needs of their constituents. The board of supervisors is directly accessible to residents with no layers of bureaucracy in between.
A board of three or five supervisors, elected at large for six-year terms, governs each township. As the township’s legislative body, this board enacts ordinances, adopts budgets, and levies taxes. Because there is no separately elected executive, except in some home rule townships, the supervisors also perform such functions as enforcing ordinances, approving expenditures, and hiring employees.
Townships are the oldest form of organized government in the United States. Years ago, township supervisors were mainly in charge of maintaining roads and bridges. Today, their role has expanded to include public safety, land use, and environmental protection, among many other responsibilities. And as state and federal mandates increase, these public servants assume an ever greater role in meeting these demands while providing needed services and facilities for their residents.
Townships and cooperation...
The misconception exists that township officials are reluctant to look beyond their borders, but that’s simply not true. Intergovernmental cooperation is thriving in Pennsylvania, a fact revealed in a 2009 PSATS survey, which found that 83 percent of responding townships are participating in cooperative initiatives with other governments. These efforts save time and money, which are both scarce commodities in townships.
According to the survey, townships are working together on everything from providing ambulance services to zoning. At the top of the list, however, are equipment sharing, joint purchasing, road maintenance, and fire protection.
Cooperation isn’t something that townships do from time to time. Instead, it has become a normal business practice across the state in communities of all sizes. The survey results demonstrate that township officials and staff are creative when it comes to delivering the services their residents want and need on increasingly tight budgets. Township officials know what works best for their communities and are taking the initiative and working with their neighbors as they look for ways to improve services and reduce costs.