In New Jersey, the four (4) forms of local government (counties, municipalities, school districts and special districts) are considered "creatures of the state."  That is, they may be created, altered or abolished only by state government.  Additionally, state statutes mandate the authority of local officials to perform their functions.


I.         COUNTIES [N.J.S.A. 40:41a-1 et seq.]


A.         CLASSES - For legislative purposes, New Jersey's twenty-one (21) counties are classified on the basis of size, geographic location and population density.  The classes are defined as follows:


1.         First class - Over 550,000 with a density of over 3,000 persons per square mile.


2.         Second class - All other counties over 200,000 not bordering on Atlantic Ocean.


3.         Third class - Not less than 50,000 nor more than 200,000 not bordering on Atlantic Ocean.


4.         Fourth class - Less than 50,000 not bordering on Atlantic Ocean.


5.         Fifth class - Over 125,000 bordering on Atlantic Ocean.  10/31/05


6.         Sixth class - 125,000 or less bordering on Atlantic Ocean.  10/31/05




1.         The traditional organization of county government has been the Board of Chosen Freeholders, elected to three (3) year terms, serving as policymakers and as individual administrators of county departments.


2.         The Optional County Charter Law, enacted in 1972, enables the voters to select one (1) of four (4) plans of organization, all of which limit the Freeholder Board to legislative, policymaking functions.


a.         County Executive Plan - Elected Freeholder Board, Elected County Executive supervising an appointed County Administrator.


b.         County Manager Plan - Elected Freeholder Board, appointed County Manager.


c.         County Supervisor Plan - Elected Freeholder Board, appointed County Administrator supervised by elected County Supervisor.


d.         Board President Plan - Elected Freeholder Board, appointed County Administrator supervised by President of Freeholder Board.


3.         In all four (4) plans, a Freeholder Board:


a.         Consists of five (5), seven (7) or nine (9) members;


b.         Is elected for concurrent or overlapping terms of office;


c.         Is elected at large, from districts drawn within the county or through a combination of districts and at large.




1.         The Board of Chosen Freeholders may raise by taxation all money necessary to pay for current expenses, improvements, acquisition of property, obligations and debts, and for the fulfillment of all obligations imposed by law on the county.


2.         The sources of revenue for counties are property taxes, miscellaneous revenue, State Aid and Institutional Revenue, in the order given.







            The form and operation of local government in New Jersey is derived from State law.  New Jersey’s five hundred sixty five (565) municipalities are technically creatures of the Legislature, regulated by the statutes which authorized their creation.  At various times in the history of New Jersey, new forms of municipal government have been authorized by the State.   Generally, municipalities are identified their form of government.


            Specific forms of municipal government have been authorized by statute and the New Jersey Constitution.  There is a difference between the type of municipality and its form of government.  A municipality may be called the “Township of X” even when that municipality has adopted one of the optional forms under the Faulkner Act. Even though a municipality is named “Township of X,” it is likely that the municipality operates under a modern form of government.


            It is also possible for a municipality to continue to operate under one of the original forms of municipal government: City, Town, Township, Village, or Borough.


1.         Special Charters.  A municipality, with the approval and support of its electorate, may petition the Legislature to create or modify special charter.  Special charters are the incorporating documents for the municipality.  There is virtually no limitation on the provisions of the special charter, because the Legislature has broad discretion to authorize forms of local government.    If an existing special charter needs to be amended, as recommended by a charter study commission, a particular process must be followed in order to successfully petition the Legislature. See N.J.S.A. 40:69A-16 and consult with your municipal attorney or special counsel if necessary.


2.         Commission (Walsh Act) [N.J.S.A. 40:70-1 et seq.]


3.         Municipal Manager [N.J.S.A. 40:70-1 et seq.]


4.         Optional Municipal Charter (“Faulkner Act”) [N.J.S.A. 40:69A-et seq.]


a.         Mayor-Council.  Colloquially referred to as the "strong Mayor" form of government.  Rather than an appointed, unelected individual, this form of government has its Chief Executive directly elected, separate and apart from the governing body.


b.         Council-Manager Plan.  The Council is the elected policymaker and appoints the Manager who acts as Chief Executive and Administrative Officer for the municipality.  The manager serves at the pleasure of the governing body.  While other municipal officials have statutory responsibilities and obligations, the manager serves as the decision maker with respect to day-to-day operations of the municipality.


c.         Small Municipalities Plan.  Only available to municipalities with a population of less than 12,000, it is a hybrid of the borough form and the township form of government organization.


d.         Mayor-Council-Administrator Plan.  The Council exercises the legislative power, the Mayor exercises the Executive power, and the appointed Municipal Administrator supervises the administration.


B.         POWERS - [N.J.S.A. 40:43 et seq.] The municipality is a corporation, having a corporation seal, and corporate officers, with full power to:


1.         Organize and regulate its internal affairs.  The New Jersey Constitution prohibits the Legislature from enacting a law which regulates the internal affairs of a particular municipality.


2.         Adopt and enforce policy ordinances and impose penalties.


3.         Sue and be sued; contract and be contracted with; appropriate and expend moneys; and adopt, amend and repeal ordinances and resolutions as may be required.


4.         Exercise powers of taxation, borrowing and condemnation.


C.         MONEY AND FINANCE - The sources of revenue for municipalities are property taxes, miscellaneous revenue, Public Utility Tax, Surplus Appropriations and State Aid.


III.      SCHOOL DISTRICTS [N.J.S.A. 18A:9 et seq.]


A.         TYPE I


1.         Members of the Board of Education are appointed by the Mayor.


2.         School tax levy is determined by the Board of Education.


3.         School tax levy is approved by the Board of School Estimates which consists of the Mayor, two (2) members of the School Board and two (2) members of the Governing Body.


4.         School debt is the debt of the municipality.


B.         TYPE II


1.         Members of the Board of Education are elected by the voters.


2.         School tax levy is submitted to the voters for approval.  If defeated, it is submitted to the municipality's Governing Body.


3.         School debt is the responsibility of the school district, not the municipality.


C.         REGIONAL (TYPE II) - The area of a school district is usually the same as that of the municipality.  There are provisions in state law, however, enabling districts to encompass two or more municipalities, thus creating consolidated and regional school districts.  9/15/18


1.         Representation on the Board of Education is apportioned among the participating districts according to population.


2.         Board of Education is classified as Type II;  board members are elected and tax levy is approved by the voters.


D.         MONEY AND FINANCE - The sources of revenue for school districts are property taxes, State Aid and Federal Aid, in the order given.




            Established to provide specific governmental services within a municipality (i.e. fire protection, garbage collection, street lighting).  Funded and administered in one of two ways:


A.         Election of Special District governing body and approval of tax levy by the voters within the district.


B.         Tax levy determined by the municipal Governing Body and administered by appointed personnel.





A.         FEDERAL - Municipal Clerks should be familiar with all departments of the federal government, especially those where interaction between local and federal entities frequently occur; i.e. Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Agency, and Census Bureau.


B.         STATE OF NEW JERSEY - In the course of their duties, Municipal Clerks may reach out to State bodies including:  Department of Community Affairs, Bureau of Archives and Records, Department of Personnel, Department of Transportation, Division of Pensions, Alcoholic Beverage Control, Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission, Local Finance Board and Public Employment Relations Commission.


Helpful tip: The Division of Local Government Services offers a searchable excel index of all Local Finance Notices (LFN) currently posted on their website at



C.         COUNTY - Municipal Clerks often need to communicate with various County agencies, especially the Commissioner of Registration, Superintendent of Elections, County Board of Elections, County Board of Taxation, Prosecutor and Freeholder Clerk.


D.         LOCAL


1.         Municipal Department - Municipal Clerks are vital members of the municipal team, interacting with:


a.         Administration - Administrator, Business Manager, Personnel, Attorney


b.         Public Safety - Police and Fire, Municipal Court, Prosecutor, Public Defender


c.         Finance - Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer, Purchasing Agent, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor


d.         Health and Human Services - Welfare, Vital Statistics, Environment, Senior Citizens, Individuals with Disabilities, Drug and Alcohol Abuse


e.         Public Works - Engineering, Traffic, Shade Trees, Refuse, Recycling


f.          Parks and Recreation - Permits, "Green Acres", Sports Programs


g.         Planning - Zoning, Building, Code Enforcement


2.         Elected and Appointed Officials - Reserved. 9/15/18


3.         Board and Commissions




Municipal Clerks must also interact with local institutions such as:


1.         Schools/School Boards/School Districts


2.         Public Libraries


3.         Historical Societies


4.         Chamber of Commerce/Economic Development Corporations


5.         Media






A.         CHAPTER LAWS - Compilation of laws passed during a legislative session and signed by the governor, bound together in numerical order and indexed by subject matter.  A separate volume appears for each year.  For example, Chapter 174 of the Laws of 1985 is the Municipal Clerk Certification Law and would be cited as P.L. 1985, c.174.  10/31/05


B.         NEW JERSEY STATUTES ANNOTATED - Unofficial compilation of all legislation currently in effect, numbered so that the statutes concerning the same subject are grouped together within fifty-nine (59) titles.  The titles then are divided into chapters, and the chapters are divided into sections.  For example, a statute may be designated by a series of three (3) numbers: N.J.S.A. 19:12-6 means New Jersey Statutes Annotated, Title 19, Chapter 12, Section 6.  The volumes include annotations consisting of comments on legal history, previous statutes and court decisions.  The New Jersey Statutes Annotated is published commercially and is kept up to date with "pocket part" supplements.   10/31/04


C.         NEW JERSEY ADMINISTRATIVE CODE - The "how to" book, an official publication of the State of New Jersey which contains the rules, regulations and other documents issued by state agencies.  It is kept up to date by periodic supplements.  The New Jersey Administrative Code, cited as N.J.A.C., also uses a system of titles, chapters and sections.  10/31/04


D.         CASE LAW - Court decisions which create, alter or abolish New Jersey Statutory provisions.  10/31/04











Alcoholic Beverage Control

N.J.S.A. 33

Alcoholic Beverage Control

N.J.A.C. 13.2



Assessment Searches

N.J.S.A. 54:5-14



Board of Health/Vital Statistics

N.J.S.A. 26



Boards of Education 10/31/05

N.J.S.A. 18A



Civil Service/NJ Personnel

N.J.S.A. 11

Civil Service

N.J.A.C. 4A



Dogs (Agriculture)

N.J.S.A. 4




N.J.S.A. 19



Faulkner Act 9/15/14

N.J.S.A. 40:69A-1



Legalized Games of Chance

N.J.A.C. 13.1



Local Public Contracts Law

N.J.S.A. 40A:11



Local Budget Law

N.J.S.A. 40A:4



Local Bond Law

N.J.S.A. 40A:2



Municipal Land Use Law

N.J.S.A. 40:55D



Non-Partisan Elections 9/15/14

N.J.S.A. 40:45



Open Public Meetings Act

N.J.S.A. 10:4-6



Public Records 10/31/04

N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1



Reorganization Meetings

N.J.S.A. 40:45A-1




Published by ClerkBase
©2019 by Clerkbase. No Claim to Original Government Works.