1st Class Township Scope

Elected Offices

Commissioners, treasurer, 3 elected auditors or 1 appointed auditor, or 1 controller (except where abolished).

Elected Board (Council, Commissioners, or Supervisors)

At least 5 elected at large; if divided into wards, 1 from each ward; if less than 5 wards, 1 from each ward and the remainder at large; if more than 5 wards, 1 from each ward (maximum 15 wards)

Term of Office

All serve a four-year term (except auditors (6 yr. term)) beginning first Monday of January after the municipal election.

Half of the board is elected every two years. 

Qualifications for Office

ALL: 18 years of age; resident for at least 1 year prior to election (and resident of ward continuously at least 1 year); registered voter; Controller must be a competent accountant.

Vacancies – Elective Office

Board of commissioners fills by appointing, by resolution, a registered voter of the Township (and ward where appropriate); if unfilled within 30 days, it is filled within 15 additional days by a vacancy board (consisting of commissioners, and one registered voter who acts as chair); if still unfilled, the chair or vacancy board petitions common pleas court to fill the vacancy; appointee holds office until the first Monday in January after first municipal election occurring more than 60 days after vacancy occurs. In the case where there are vacancies in a majority of the offices of commissioners, the court of common pleas shall fill such vacancies upon presentation of petition signed by not less than fifteen (15) registered electors of the Township. No person who was convicted of or pled guilty to a felony is eligible for appointment to fill a vacancy on the board of commissioners for a period of 3 years from the date of the conviction or plea.

Incompatible Offices

Officers: civil service commissioner (one commission member may be a member of Commissioners); zoning hearing board; zoning officer; school director; county elective officer; district justice

Commissioners: cannot be appointed secretary; authority board member (where incorporation laws prohibit it where compensation received).

Treasurer: any other township office, except tax collector; may serve as treasurer of school district

Auditor: any other elective or appointed office

Civil service commission: elective or appointed office under the US govt., the Commonwealth of PA, or any political subdivision, except that any member of the civil service commission may be a member of the board of the township commissioners.

Removal from Office

The PA Constitution provides 3 methods: (1) by impeachment in the General Assembly (2) by the governor for reasonable cause after due notice and full hearing on the address of 2/3 of the Senate or (3) courts after conviction of misbehavior in office or of any infamous crime. 

Note: Section 604 of the First Class Township Code provides that an officer may be subject to removal when she refuses or neglects to perform duties; such action is initiated by petition of at least 100 residents who are property owners to common please court; the court may declare the office vacant and appoint a new officer after the appropriate procedures are held and evidence reviewed. The constitutionality of section 604 is questionable in light of In re Reese, 665 A.2d 1162, 1995 Pa. LEXIS 972 (Pa. 1995) and S. Newton Twp. Electors v S. Newton Twp. Supervisor, 838 A.2d 643 (PA. 2003).


Officers may receive a salary, established by ordinance; limitations based on population as established by township code section 703

Specific Powers

Specific powers of the township shall be vested in the board of commissioners and include (examples – for full powers clauses see §§ 1502 – 1505):

  1. Ordinances and resolutions
  2. Fines
  3. Offices, positions, departments
  4. Township Manager
  5. Police force

Organizational Meetings

Commissioners shall organize on the first Monday of January of each even-numbered year. If the first Monday is a legal holiday, meeting shall be held the first day following. The board shall organize by the election of one of their members as president and one as vice president who shall hold office until their successors are elected and qualified. 

Notes on Home Rule in Municipal Government

  • Home rule transfers the basic authority to act in municipal affairs from state law, set forth by the General Assembly, to a local charter, which is adopted and amended by the voters.
  • A home rule municipality is still subject to restrictions found in the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions and in state laws applicable to home rule municipalities.
  • The difference between home rule communities and other local governments: home rule municipalities can act except where they are specifically limited by state law, whereas other municipal governments can act only where specifically authorized by state law.
  • Procedures of adoption of a home rule charter:
    • Voters decide by referendum to begin the process and, at the same time, elect a government study commission, charged with studying the existing government, exploring alternatives and deciding whether or not to recommend change.
    • If home rule is recommended, the commission drafts a charter which is presented to the voters who must approve by a majority vote if the charter is to go into effect
  • The decision to seek a home rule charter may be initiated by an ordinance of the governing body or by a petition signed by a sufficient number of registered voters as established by law.
  • Members of the study commission must be registered voters of the municipality.
  • A charter drafted by the commission may continue the present form of government with only minimal changes or may drastically alter the organization of government. At minimum it must include the following elements: 
    • A general grant of powers to the municipality
    • The basic organization of the government, including identification of all elected and chief appointed officials, placement iof legislative, executive and administrative powers and duties and organizational interrelationships.
    • Specification of critical legislative and administrative procedures or safeguards to assure due process
    • Provisions for citizen participation in the local government and reservation of specific powers to voters
    • Mandates for desirable administrative practices such as merit-based personnel system, long range capital budgeting or professional auditing
    • General provisions covering matters such as transition procedures and the effective date.



Information from Local Government Academy