PhILS banner
Agency level banner

City Commissioners, Office of the

[Record group 1]
Alternative/Former Names
County Commissioners;
County Assessors;
County Tax Collectors

Agency home page.
Agency Function
The City Commissioners are elected every four years by the citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia and are responsible for voter registration and conducting elections.

Agency History
An Act of 27 November 1700 first established the office of Tax Assessor in Philadelphia County, directing that six persons be elected annually to estimate the County's fiscal needs, to make an assessment and levy a tax to meet them, and to appoint its collectors and the County Treasurer. An Act of 28 March 1710-1711 created Assembly-appointed County Commissioners (made popularly elective) in 1725 who were empowered to demand accountings of the Assessors and Collectors and to appoint new collectors if necessary. Acts of 1715, 1718, and 1722 granted the Commissioners authority to share with the assessors in the assessment process and in the allocation of tax receipts among the various county projects, to take part in the appointment of the County Treasurer, and to issue warrants and levy fines against delinquent taxpayers and collectors. Other Acts passed during the eighteeenth century gave the Commissioners regulatory powers and maintainence functions in regard to county lands, roads, bridges, wharves and landings, courts, and the county prison. An Act of 1780 abolished the Board of County Assessors and left their functions in the hands of the Commissioners alone, who continued to appoint the assessors and collectors of each of the county's townships. Acts of 1799 and 1805 formally established the Commissioners' functions of furnishing lists of voters to election officers and aiding the Sheriff in the selection of jurors, as both were based upon lists of taxpayers. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the Commissioners' duties were increased to include the leasing of polling places, the provision of ballot boxes, and related duties.

At the consolidation of the City and County in 1854, the County Commissioners were abolished, and most of their functions transferred to the popularly-elected City Commissioners who, although retaining their original title and duties, were thenceforth considered County officers. The offices of City Tax Collector and County Tax Collector were reduced to that of clerk in the new office of Receiver of Taxes in the same year. Both Commissioners' (City and County) powers in regard to streets and City property were transferred to the City's Departments of Highways and City Property. From that date until 1867, the Commissioners also served as members of the Board of Revision of Taxes. In 1867 the City Assessors were made appointees of that Board. Thereafter, the powers left the Commissioners were chiefly accounting ones over County institutions, regulatory duties regarding weights and measures (given them by an Act of 1895) and administrative functions in connection with elections, which culminated in complete control of their conduct with the formation of the County Board of Elections under their direction in 1937. By an Ordinance of 12 March 1965, the Commissioners were granted the powers of the then-abolished Registration Commission and their duties concerning weights and measures were transferred to the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

Under the Act of 2 February 1854, the voters of Philadelphia elected one commissioner annually for a term of three years. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1874, Article 14, Section 7, dictated that all county commissioners throughout the state (the Philadelphia City Commissioners being considered county commissioners) should be elected every third year. Later, the term was extended to four years.

Although not mentioned in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, the City Commissioners' Office became part of the City government by way of the 1951 City-County Amendment to the State Constitution. In addition, the 1963 amendment to the First Class Cities Home Rule Act gave City Council the power to pass legislation with regard to operations of the City Commissioners' Office. These enactments were further enabled by the 1965 City-County Consolidation Ordinance of City Council.

Archival Records
1.1 County Commissioners. Minutes (1718-1766, 1771-1776, 1797-1801, 1837-1841)

1.2 City Commissioners. Minutes (1906, 1912-1931)

1.3 City Commissioners. Papers (1919, 1922-1923, 1929-1930, 1936)

1.4 Tax Receipts (1757)

1.5 Value of Property in County (1779)

1.6 County Carriage Tax Assessment Ledger (1783-1794)

1.7 State Personal Tax Assessment Ledger (1832)

1.8 State Tax Assessment Ledgers (1779-1783, 1785-1789, 1834-1835, 1841-1846, ca. 1847, 1848-1854)

1.8a State Tax Duplicates (1841, 1846-1848, 1850, 1852, 1853)

1.9 County Tax Assessment Ledger (1791-1826, 1841-1846, ca. 1847, 1848-1854)

1.10 County Tax Duplicate (1773, 1775, 1793-1795, 1798, 1800, 1810-1819, 1822, 1836-1837, 1839, 1841, 1843, 1847-1848, 1850-1851, 1853)

1.11 County Funding Tax Duplicate (1788)

1.12 County Tax Abatements (1785-1796)

1.13 County Tax Abatements, Memorandum Book (1780-1813 missing: 1794, 1804-1806)

1.14 Tax Collectors' Reports to Common Pleas Court of Real Estate to be Sold for Non-payment of Taxes. (1803-1818)

1.15 Enumeration of School Children (1811-1816)

1.16 Enumeration of Taxables, Slaves, Deaf and Dumb Persons (1793, 1800, 1821, 1828, 1835)

1.17 Duplicate Enumeration of Taxables, Slaves, Deaf and Dumb Persons (1821, 1828, 1835)

1.18 Election Returns (1785, 1798-1799, 1820-1858, 1939-1969)

1.18a Election Divisions of Philadelphia, Wards 1-51 (1933)

1.19 Election Payroll (1851-1854)

1.20 Register, Distribution of Assessment and Election Books (1842-1843, 1851)

1.21 Voting Division Maps (1933)

1.22 Loan Certificate Stubs (1838-1854)

1.23 Journal, Transfers of Loan Certificates (1845-1854)

1.24 Road Damages Payments (1831-1838)

1.25 Voucher Stubs (1854)

1.26 Bureau of Weights and Measures. Annual Reports (1914)

1.27 Digest of County Laws (1839)

1.28 Provincial Tax Assessment Ledgers and Duplicates (1769, 1774-1775)

1.29 Effective Supply Tax, Duplicate (1780)

Current Records

Click on a folder or file to return to that level...
PhILS Home
City Agencies
Current Agency Information Sheet. (Text-only version of this page)

Send your comments to
Last updated on November 8, 2000