Lower Paxton Township is the 17th most populous municipality in Pennsylvania with a 2010 census count of 47,360 people. Most of Pennsylvania's townships possess much smaller populations - usually less than 10,000 people. Although individual townships may represent comparatively small municipal constituencies, townships as a whole are the most common forms of municipal government in Pennsylvania. The 1,457 townships of the second class represent over half of the state's 2,566 municipal governments and 35% of the state's population.
FUNCTIONS OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT:
Townships like Lower Paxton are a specific form of local or municipal government defined by an act of the state legislature known as the Second Class Township Code. There are other forms of local government in Pennsylvania, such as cities, boroughs, villages, and home rule municipalities. There even exists one incorporated town, the Town of Bloomsburg. Further, some of these general municipal classifications are further defined within specific operating categories. For example, Pennsylvania possesses townships of both the first and second class, and several classifications of cities.
Through their respective operating codes, municipalities are given power to act for the good of society. As a municipal government, townships have the ultimate responsibility for public health, safety, and welfare, which may include police and fire protection, emergency medical services, emergency management, highway maintenance and codes enforcement. Townships may also provide other services, such as parks and recreation, water and sewer service, and refuse collection, in furtherance of their legislated responsibilities.
Municipal government is important to the quality of life within a community. Townships can establish health and safety regulations to protect citizens from nuisances and noxious activities; regulate building activities; and control of land development through zoning and subdivision ordinances. Municipal government can also influence the general appearance and desirability of a community through sponsorship of cultural or recreational activities, such as libraries, museums, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, community centers, and senior citizen centers, as well as community based activities.
THE FUNCTIONS OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:
Three-member boards of supervisors govern Second Class Townships. The term of office of a township supervisor is six years. Responding to demands for additional representation in large townships, the state legislature authorized five-member boards, upon approval by the voters of a township through referendum. Lower Paxton Township has voted to increase its board to five members. To qualify to serve as a township supervisor an individual must be a registered voter of and maintain residency within the township during the term of office.
The Second Class Township Code places the general supervision of the affairs of the township in the hands of the Board of Supervisors. As such, supervisors are required to assume many of the roles found in separate branches or levels of state and federal governments. Specifically, supervisors serve in legislative, executive, and administrative capacities.
The Board of Supervisors serves as the legislative body of the township, setting policy, enacting ordinances and resolutions, adopting budgets and levying taxes. Supervisors also represent the township and its concerns before other municipal governments, the state and federal governments, and private sector entities.
Since there is no separately elected executive in Townships of the Second Class, the Board of Supervisors also performs executive functions, including preparation of the annual budget, proclaiming municipal events, hiring employees, and appointing members to township authorities, boards, and commissions. Certain executive functions, such as representing the township at official functions, are often performed by the chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisors also play a role in the administrative activities of municipal governments, overseeing day-to-day township operations. In this capacity, supervisors provide for enforcement of local laws and regulations, management of personnel, and purchase of equipment, materials, supplies, and services. Supervisors, as administrators, are actively involved in the financial management of townships, and are responsible not only for collection of monies earned through taxes, service charges, and grants, but also for seeing that municipal funds are spent in accordance with approved municipal budgets.
A limited number of townships in Pennsylvania, including Lower Paxton, have hired a professional township manager to direct operations on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.
Township supervisors also possess many other duties. Some examples are:
- Meet with residents to obtain input on township programs and policies.
- Meet with other elected officials and township staff on issues of general governance.
- Review technical reports from engineers, planners, and other professionals.
- Attend county association and Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors meetings and conferences.
- Participate in the inspection of problems or review of proposals that have been identified by citizens.
- Report on the status of local government affairs to concerned citizens.
DELEGATION OF BOARD FUNCTIONS:
The administration of townships and other forms of municipal government have become very complex. As such, most Supervisors delegate some administrative responsibilities to appointed officials. The Second Class Township Code allows the Board of Supervisors to appoint individuals who possess a specific expertise to employed administrative positions. Townships may appoint a Manager, Solicitor, Engineer, Treasurer, and Secretary, although appointment of other professionals is also permitted.
The township code and other state legislation also permit the Board of Supervisors to enlist its citizenry through formation of authorities, boards and commissions. Such bodies allow the governing body to draw upon citizen expertise and directly involve citizens in their government. Some of the more common authorities, boards, and commissions operating in Second Class Townships are stormwater and sewer authorities, planning commissions, park and recreation boards, zoning hearing boards, and shade tree commissions.
Local government increases in complexity with each passing day. Citizens expect effective and efficient services, and federal and state governments are placing more responsibilities at the local level. The successful operation of a township, borough, town, or city requires the time and effort of many people.
To better explain its complex governmental functions Lower Paxton Township offers several educational and informational services. These services range from televised meetings of the Board of Supervisors; distribution of a newsletter; and, of course, this web site.