Reporter's Guide to Pennsylvania Local Government

what you really need to know when they send you to a meeting

Third class cities

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Fifty-three Pennsylvania cities are cities of the third class. There are four major organizational models, with variations, among Pennsylvania’s third-class cities.

They are: commission form, mayor-council form, council-manager form and weak mayor-council form.

Sixteen third-class cities operate under home rule charters.

Reporters can find their city on the list below and scroll down to the applicable model, keeping in mind that any city followed by the “home rule” designation can have organizational features that differ from the general category to which it belongs.

  • Aliquippa – commission form 
  • Allentown – home rule, mayor-council form
  • Altoona – council-manager
  • Arnold – commission
  • Beaver Falls – commission
  • Bethlehem – mayor-council
  • Bradford – commission
  • Butler – commission
  • Carbondale – home rule, mayor-council form
  • Chester – home rule, commission form
  • Clairton – home rule, council-manager form
  • Coatesville – home rule, council-manager form
  • Connellsville – commission
  • Corry – commission
  • Dubois – council-manager
  • Duquesne – commission
  • Easton – mayor-council
  • Erie – mayor-council
  • Farrell – home rule, council-manager form
  • Franklin – home rule, council-manager form
  • Greensburg – home rule, commission form
  • Harrisburg – mayor-council
  • Hazelton –mayor-council
  • Hermitage – home rule, council-manager form
  • Jeannette – commission
  • Johnstown – home rule, council-manager form
  • Lancaster – mayor-council
  • Lebanon – home rule, mayor-council form
  • Lock Haven – council-manager
  • Lower Burrell – commission
  • McKeesport – home rule, mayor-council form
  • Meadville – council-manager
  • Monessen – commission
  • Monongahela – commission
  • Nanticoke – commission
  • New Castle – mayor-council
  • New Kensington – commission
  • Oil City – council-manager
  • Parker City – weak mayor-council
  • Pittston – commission
  • Pottsville – commission
  • Reading – home rule, mayor-council form
  • Shamokin – commission
  • Sharon – mayor-council
  • St. Marys – home rule, council-manager form
  • Sunbury – commission
  • Titusville – council-manager
  • Uniontown – commission
  • Warren – home rule, council-manager form 
  • Washington – commission
  • Wilkes-Barre – home rule, mayor-council form
  • Williamsport – mayor-council
  • York – mayor-council

COMMISSION FORM

Under the commission form of city government, residents elect five commissioners, one of whom is the mayor who serves as commission chairman. Each commissioner heads one commission department.

The mayor, as commissioner for public affairs, is head of the police department and appoints its major officers; makes appointments to the planning commission and the redevelopment authority and generally has a great deal of influence in the operation of those agencies. The mayor also supervises the conduct of council meetings, has the power to enforce and execute laws and has the power of a sheriff in a riot.

Other commissioners head the departments of accounts and finance (with major responsibility for accounting and budgeting), streets and public improvements, public safety, and parks and public property.

The city treasurer and city controller are elected at-large for terms of four years. They must be accountants. The treasurer is also the tax collector, responsible for city, school district and, in some cases, county taxes. The controller is responsible for examining and auditing city accounts and expenditures.

Council appoints a city clerk, city solicitor and city engineer. The city clerk’s office approaches the role of a city manager in some cities. The city solicitor provides legal advice to council. The engineer must be a registered civil engineer who prepares plans, specifications and estimates of all engineering work undertaken by the city related to construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of streets, pavements, sewers, bridges and culverts.

Commissioners serve four-year overlapping terms.

MAYOR-COUNCIL FORM

The mayor-council form has a five, seven or nine-member council, elected at-large for overlapping four-year terms. A mayor, treasurer and a controller are also elected for four years.

The mayor is the chief executive of the city and enforces the ordinances of council. The mayor supervises the work of all city departments, appoints department heads and submits the annual city budget to council. The council sets policy by passing ordinances.

The city treasurer and city controller must be accountants. The treasurer is also the tax collector, responsible for city, school district and, in some cases, county taxes. The controller is responsible for examining and auditing city accounts and expenditures.

The engineer must be a registered civil engineer who prepares plans, specifications and estimates of all engineering work undertaken by the city related to construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of streets, pavements, sewers, bridges and culverts.

COUNCIL-MANAGER

In the council-manager form, all authority is lodged with council, composed of five, seven or nine members elected at-large for four-year overlapping terms.

The city manager or administrator, usually a professional hired by council, is the chief administrative officer of the city and is responsible for executing the ordinances of council. The manager hires and fires department heads and subordinates. A mayor may be chosen by council from among its members.

The city treasurer and city controller are elected at-large for four-year terms. They must be accountants. The treasurer is also the tax collector, responsible for city, school district and, in some cases, county taxes. The controller is responsible for examining and auditing city accounts and expenditures.

The engineer, appointed by council, must be a registered civil engineer. He or she prepares plans, specifications and estimates of all engineering work related to construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of streets, pavements, sewers, bridges and culverts.

WEAK MAYOR-COUNCIL FORM

The weak mayor-council form features strong policy and administrative influence by council committees and a mayor with little or no executive authority, similar to a borough. Parker City is the only third class city still using this model.

Written by pareporter

April 26, 2010 at 3:29 am

3 Responses

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  1. Under Council-Manager, for City Treasurer it is said “They must be accountants”. Does this mean CPA certification, or would a BS in business and 10 years experience suffice?

    i.e. Is this a qualification for nomination to the position?

    Vernon Etzel

    July 5, 2011 at 5:39 pm

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