In principle, the word borough designates a self-governing community. In the United States, a borough is a unit of local government below the level of the state. The term is currently used in six states:
- A type of municipality: Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania (also formerly Minnesota)
- A subdivision of a consolidated city, corresponding to another present or previous political subdivision: New York State and Virginia
- In Alaska only, a borough is approximately a county-equivalent.
In Alaska, the word "borough" is used instead of "county." Like counties, boroughs are administrative divisions of the state, but whereas some states use a three-tiered system of decentralization—state/county/township—Alaska only has the first two tiers—state/borough. This is due to the size and nature of Alaska, especially its low population density.
Most of the state's area, however, is part of the vast Unorganized Borough, nearly as large as France and Germany combined, which has no borough-level government at all. The United States Census Bureau has divided the Unorganized Borough into eleven census areas for statistical purposes.
In addition to cities, Connecticut also has another type of dependent municipality known as a borough. Boroughs are usually the populated center of a town that decided to incorporate in order to have more responsive local government. When a borough is formed, it is still part of and dependent on its town. There are 9 boroughs in Connecticut. One borough, Naugatuck, is coextensive and consolidated with its town. The other eight boroughs, such as Woodmont, have jurisdiction over only a part of their town. Boroughs in Connecticut are counted as separate municipal governments, but governmental functions performed in other parts of the state by town governments are performed by the parent town of the borough.
In Minnesota the term borough was applied to one municipality, Belle Plaine, from 1868 to 1974.
In New Jersey, boroughs are independent municipalities and are one of five types of municipal government, each operating separately at the equivalent level of the other four types of municipal government available in New Jersey: Township, Town, City and Village. Many boroughs were formed out of larger townships, but even in such cases there is no continuing link between the borough and the township.
New York City is subdivided into five boroughs, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. Each of these is coterminous with a county, Kings, New York, Queens, Bronx and Richmond Counties respectively. There are no county governments within New York City for legislative or executive purposes, but there are borough governments composed of a borough president, members of the New York City Council which represent parts of the borough, and the chairmen of the local community boards (see Government of New York City). The powers of the borough governments are inferior to the powers of the city-wide government. The boroughs of New York City are still treated as separate counties for judicial purposes, and for business and legal filings.
In Pennsylvania's state laws that govern classes of municipalities, the term "borough" is used the way other states sometimes use the word "town." A borough is a self-governing entity that is smaller than a city. If an area is not governed by either a borough or city, then the area is governed as a township. Villages or hamlets are unincorporated and have no municipal government, other than the township in which they are found. By tradition, as recognized by publications of the state government, the only incorporated town in Pennsylvania is Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania However, in 1975, McCandless Township, in Allegheny County adopted a home rule charter under the name "Town of McCandless". In August 2005, there were 961 boroughs in the state.
In Virginia, under Code of Virginia § 15.2-3534, when multiple local governments consolidate to form a consolidated city, the consolidated city may be divided into geographical subdivisions called boroughs, which may be the same as the existing (i) cities, (ii) counties, or (iii) portions of such counties. Those boroughs are not separate local governments. For example, Chesapeake is divided into six boroughs, one corresponding to the former city of South Norfolk and one corresponding to each of the five magisterial districts of the former Norfolk County. In Virginia Beach, the seven boroughs were abolished effective July 1, 1998.
- ^ 2002 Census of Governments, Individual State Descriptions (PDF)
- ^ The Pennsylvania Manual 117
- ^ Pennsylvania Local Government Fact Sheet, 2005
- ^ "Local Government Entities in Pennsylvania" and "Municipal Statistics" in Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook for Pennsylvania
- ^ Bloomsburg
- ^ Pennsylvania code, Title 302, Chapter 23
- ^ Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook, Third Edition (2006) (PDF)
- ^ Code of Virginia § 15.2-3534
- ^ Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of the City of Chesapeake, Virginia for Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2005 (PDF)
- ^ City of Virginia Beach Development Services Center, DSC INFORMATION NOTICE #63 - Correction May 15, 1998 (PDF)
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