Town

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Town

A civil and political subdivision of a state, which varies in size and significance according to location but is ordinarily a division of a county.

A town, which is a type of Municipal Corporation, can be formed by a state legislature when a large number of dwellings have concentrated in a particular location. A town is a creation of the state, designed and authorized to perform certain governmental functions on the local level. Its main purpose is to exercise the power of the state to promote greater prosperity, safety, convenience, health, and the common good of the general community.

The terms township and town are frequently used interchangeably in certain geographic locations, although in some parts of the United States the term township denotes a group of several towns.

Since towns can be formed only from contiguous territory, tracts of land that are entirely separate cannot be included in a town. Subject to constitutional restrictions, ordinarily, the state legislature has full power to create, enlarge, diminish, consolidate, and otherwise alter the boundaries of towns without the consent of those affected.

Powers

In general, towns have only the powers conferred upon them by the state legislature. However, the capacity of a town to acquire and hold real property has long been recognized under English Common Law. Towns are, therefore, generally given the power to construct their own public buildings and usually have the power to lease their property.

Towns are ordinarily granted the power to enact ordinances concerning local matters, provided the ordinances are reasonable and protect the General Welfare of the public to an appreciable degree. For example, a town might enact Zoning ordinances to restrict the use of land in certain designated areas to safeguard the public health and safety.

Ordinances enacted by a town are subject to Judicial Review, especially concerning their reasonableness.

Meetings

Town meetings or boards are the primary vehicles by which a town governs itself since in many states a town exercises its powers by vote of a town meeting or a town council. Town meetings serve both legislative and executive functions; qualified residents meet to discuss and vote, if necessary, on matters dealing with their self-government. In most states, a person who pays town taxes is eligible to vote at the town meeting. State statutes regulate all kinds of town meetings as well as the business to be transacted and the conduct that is acceptable.

Boards or Councils

Town boards or councils are created by the legislative power of the state for the supervision of town affairs. All of their duties are either legislative or administrative in character. Their powers include selecting police officers and town attorneys, effecting public improvements, and providing for the audit and payment of claims against the town.

The selectmen of a town are officers elected by the towns to the boards to execute general business and to exercise various executive powers. Generally a board can function only when a majority of selectmen are present at a meeting. A selectman is ineligible to vote on propositions in which he or she has a financial interest in cases where his or her vote may be decisive. Town boards speak by their records, which are maintained by the town clerk in a record book. In general, other duties of the town clerk include the issuance of calls for town meetings and the performance of the general secretarial duties.

Taxation

A town is permitted to raise revenue through taxation only if the state legislature has granted it the power to do so. Township boards or the electors at a town meeting can decide the amount of taxes needed for township purposes, or the normal operating expenses of the town, such as for maintenance of the highways. A small part of the tax may be set aside for miscellaneous or emergency expenses. In addition, a town may properly impose taxes for special purposes, such as the erection of a town hall. All property not legally exempt within the limits of a town or a township is subject to assessment and taxation by it.

Upon the levy of a town tax, inhabitants must pay the tax to the appropriate officer, ordinarily the town tax collector. Failure to do so, or failure to pay taxes on property correctly assessed, will entitle the town to a lien on the property, which means that the property cannot be sold until the taxes have been paid. After a number of years prescribed by statute, the town can have the taxpayer's property sold at a Tax Sale to pay the overdue taxes plus any accrued interests and costs. Any excess funds will be given to the taxpayer.

Taxpayer's Suit

Since every taxpayer of a town has a vital interest in, and a right to, the preservation of an orderly and lawful government, a number of statutes give the individual taxpayer the right to bring an action against officers, boards, or commissions of a town to recover money that has been wrongfully spent. This type of legal action is commonly known as a taxpayer's suit.

Claims

To protect their funds, towns or townships generally establish a regular and orderly procedure for the allowance and payment of claims against them, which must be followed before any claim will be satisfied. The courts may review the decision of boards permitting or disallowing claims against towns or townships.

Claims against the town may be settled or submitted to Arbitration at the direction of town supervisors or following a vote at a town meeting.

TOWN. This word is used differently in different parts of the United States. In Pennsylvania and some other of the middle states, it signifies a village or a city. In some of the northeastern states it denotes a subdivision of a county, called in other places a township.

References in classic literature ?
About the first of August, I made an incursion into the Indian country, with a party of nineteen men, in order to surprise a small town up Sciotha, called Paint-Creek-Town.
Under this arched doorway, scraping their feet on the unworn threshold, now trod the clergymen, the elders, the magistrates, the deacons, and whatever of aristocracy there was in town or county.
I felt it almost as a destiny to make Salem my home; so that the mould of features and cast of character which had all along been familiar here -- ever, as one representative of the race lay down in the grave, another assuming, as it were, his sentry-march along the main street -- might still in my little day be seen and recognised in the old town.
Not a flock of wild geese cackles over our town, but it to some extent unsettles the value of real estate here, and, if I were a broker, I should probably take that disturbance into account.
The second, which was called the Rue de la Harpe on the left bank, Rue de la Barillerié in the island, Rue Saint- Denis on the right bank, Pont Saint-Michel on one arm of the Seine, Pont au Change on the other, ran from the Porte Saint-Michel in the University, to the Porte Saint-Denis in the Town.
Sir," replied the boy, "if you have traveled very much you will have noticed that every town differs from every other town in one way or another and so by observing the methods of the people and the way they live as well as the style of their dwelling places it ought not to be a difficult thing to make up your mind without the trouble of asking questions whether the town bears the appearance of the one you intended to visit or whether perhaps having taken a different road from the one you should have taken you have made an error in your way and arrived at some point where--"
As soon as I arrived in a town, and put the horses up, on the way from the stable to the hotel I dropped into the saloons.
On carefully considering," he said, "what is going on now between Florida and Texas, it is clear that the same difficulties will recur with all the towns of the favored State.
A knight with a gleaming plume, and most magnificently dressed, held him before him on the horse, and thus they rode through the wood to the old town of Bordingborg, and that was a large and very lively town.
After a long pause he remarks, partly to you, and partly to the knob on the top of his stick, that 'Yankees are reckoned to be considerable of a go-ahead people too;' upon which YOU say 'Yes,' and then HE says 'Yes' again (affirmatively this time); and upon your looking out of window, tells you that behind that hill, and some three miles from the next station, there is a clever town in a smart lo-ca-tion, where he expects you have concluded to stop.
In the presence of George Willard, Wing Bid- dlebaum, who for twenty years had been the town mystery, lost something of his timidity, and his shadowy personality, submerged in a sea of doubts, came forth to look at the world.
In summer time, the town is sweet to see; full of fine maples --long avenues of green and gold.