in the context of New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...
local government refers to one of five types
and one of eleven forms
of municipal government.
Though it is now the most common form of government in New Jersey, by 1875 only 17 boroughs had been created, all by special acts of the legislature. These original boroughs were subdivisions
of townships, established by state charter; Elizabeth
Elizabeth is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 124,969, retaining its ranking as New Jersey's fourth largest city with an increase of 4,401 residents from its 2000 Census population of 120,568...
was the first, established by royal charter in 1740, within the now defunct Elizabeth Township. About half of them had been dissolved, or changed into other forms of government - often cities. In 1875, a constitutional amendment prohibited such local or special legislation.
The Borough Act of 1878
allowed any township (or portion thereof) with a land area of no more than four square miles and a population not exceeding 5,000, to establish itself as an independent borough through a petition and referendum process on a self-executing basis. As enacted, a borough would be governed by an elected mayor (serving a one-year term) and a six-member council (elected to staggered three-year terms). The mayor would preside at council meetings, but had no vote except to break ties.
In 1894, the Legislature passed an act requiring each township to have a single school district. A wave of borough incorporations followed, as one part of several townships decided that it would prefer the cost of being a separate municipality to paying for the other schools; this wave was called boroughitis
Boroughitis was a political phenomenon that spread throughout the U.S. state of New Jersey in the late 19th century, which led groups of residents to unite to form boroughs from within and among the many townships that were the prevalent form of local government at the time. This phenomenon was...
by commentators at the time.
The Borough Act of 1897
amended the original Act, eliminating the self-executing incorporation feature of the earlier legislation. Henceforth, newly incorporated boroughs (or those seeking to dissolve or increase or decrease in size) required approval of the legislature. The elected mayor and six-member council were retained, with the mayor now serving a two-year term.
The Borough Act of 1987
was created to streamline borough law and clear away amendments, changes and contradictory rules that had accumulated over the century of the Borough's existence as a form of government. The 1987 Act allowed for the delegation of executive responsibility to an appointed administrator.
Traditionally, voters elect a mayor and six council-members at-large in a partisan election. Only two boroughs, Roselle and Roselle Park have ward structures with councils having 5 ward members and one at-large. The borough system has a weak mayor and the council performs most legislative and executive functions. This form of local government is used by 39% of the municipalities in New Jersey.