History of the Township Form of Government
The Township Form of government is the oldest form of municipal government in the State of New Jersey originating with the Township Act of 1798. This Act incorporated the original 104 townships of New Jersey. This form of government closely resembled the New England town meeting and was considered a direct democracy. The town meeting was authorized to elect five freeholders to serve as the township committee for a one-year term. The function of the township committee under the Township Act of 1798 was to supervise the expenditure of township funds between town meetings.
The Township Act was revised slightly in 1846, but the basic structure of township government remained intact. Between 1846 and 1899, the Township Act was amended 168 times. In 1899, a sweeping revision of the Township Act was passed.
The Township Act of 1899 abolished the town meeting and all municipal legislative powers were concentrated in a strengthened township committee. The township committee consisted of three elected members, with staggered three-year terms. The law was later amended to allow for an increase to five members. The Township Act of 1899 served as the basis of township government from February 1900 to 1990 when the latest revision of the Township form, the Township Act of 1989, took effect.
The Township Act of 1989 repealed the 1899 law and its many amendments and established a much clearer and concise statutory basis for the township form of government. These changes were again the result of recommendations made to the Legislature and Governor by the State Commission on County and Municipal Government.
The Township Act of 1989 retained the basic structure of the township form: a three or five member township committee serving staggered three-year terms with at-large representation and the mayor elected by the committee from among its members for a one-year term of office. One township, Winslow Township, has representation by wards and the one township committee member elected at-large serves as mayor. The voters of any township may also choose to increase the membership of the township committee from three to five members or decrease the membership from five to three, through a petition and referendum process.
This law provides for an annual partisan election, with primaries in June and the general election in November. The township form of government is contained in NJSA 40A:63-1 et seq. (PL 1989, c 157; otherwise known as the Township Act of 1989). As of January 1, 1995 there were 149 township committees in New Jersey; 44 three member committees, 104 five member committees, and one nine member committee (Winslow Township).
Under the current township government laws as they apply to Kingwood Township, three Committee members are elected at-large in partisan elections to serve staggered three-year terms. The Mayor is elected by the Committee and serves a one-year term, as does the Deputy Mayor. The Mayor serves as the Chairperson of the Committee and votes as an equal member, but has no other special powers under our adoption of the township form of government. The committee as a whole exercises all legislative and executive powers, including the power of appointments.