Boroughs are governed by an elected council. Election to a governing body conveys a great deal of power and responsibility. This power is granted by various laws and codes vesting certain corporate and specific powers in council. Corporate powers legalize the action of the borough and provide elected officials authority to act on behalf of the borough.
The Borough Code invests the corporate power of the municipality in council. The Code further delineates other powers enabling council to function in the best interest of the borough. Specific powers provide authority to council to enact legislation and are intended to provide council with the capability needed to legislate for the benefit of the municipality and its citizens.
The Code authorizes the governing body to make and adopt all ordinances, bylaws, rules and regulations deemed necessary for the proper management and control of the borough in order to maintain good government and protect the safety and welfare of its citizens. Any legislation must not be in conflict with the Constitution and the laws of the commonwealth. The general grant of power authorizes any legal action on the part of council to maintain the peace, good government and welfare of the borough and to protect the health, safety, morals and general welfare of its inhabitants.
The elected borough council is involved primarily in a legislative role. They may also act in an administrative, executive or supervisory role to a lesser extent.
The methods for taking official action are specified in the Borough Code and other state laws. Although official binding actions may be taken on the basis of an ordinance, a resolution or a motion, the Code requires all legislation acts to be taken by ordinance or resolution.
An ordinance is generally defined as a local law of a municipal corporation of a general or permanent nature. A resolution is considered as being less formal than an ordinance and used when the matter under discussion is either specific or of a temporary nature, pertains to the transaction of current business or ordinary administration of municipal affairs. A motion is a formal method for taking action on any measure being considered by the governing body, such as an ordinance or resolution. In addition, it is used to finalize the decision on other actions before council.
State law gives borough councils quasi-judicial powers as a hearing board to hear, interpret local ordinances and decide certain issues, including local personnel actions and various types of applications under the Planning Code. When the borough council is acting in a quasi-judicial role, a different pattern of behavior is required than that associated with the formulation of legislative policy, which involves full and free public discussion of issues. When acting in a quasi-judicial role, there is a need for council members to avoid the appearance of bias in cases where they are acting as a tribunal, performing a role quite different from the role in formulating public policy.
The Borough Code requires council to meet at least once a month. Only the date of the organization meeting of council is set by law as the first Monday in January of each even numbered year. (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday) A quorum of members is required to conduct business.