The forms of municipality in New Jersey are more complex than in most other states, though, potentially leading to misunderstandings regarding the governmental nature of an area. With five types and twelve forms of local government (plus several non-standard forms in municipalities with special charters), some areas of New Jersey are administered significantly differently from other states. To make matters more complex, New Jersey also distinguishes between regional, consolidated, and countywide school districts and school districts that serve only a single municipality. As well, the total area of any given airport may or may not lie completely within the boundaries of a given municipality — or even a given county.
All local general purpose governments have equivalent legal powers, with the different forms and types reflecting the historical circumstances of the municipality's incorporation, similar to New England towns. For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau treats only boroughs, cities, towns, and villages as "municipalities", and townships as "townships"; the Census Bureau's classification does not reflect the underlying state law that draws no distinction between the five types.
New Jersey is divided into 21 counties, and all are governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders, which typically serves as both the legislative and executive body. The boards consist of three, five, seven or nine members; only Warren County, New Jersey has a board of 3 freeholders, with voters rejecting expansion to five in November 2007. The means of election of the freeholders varies from all freeholders elected in districts, all elected at-large, or mixed district and at-large freeholders. Elections are first past the post for single-member districts, and for at-large elections when only one seat is at stake. For at-large elections with more than one seat, plurality-at-large voting is used.
All counties in New Jersey hold organizational meetings on or right after New Year's Day. At this time the boards elect members to leadership positions on the boards. Depending upon the specific board these offices include director, deputy director, president, vice-president, chair, chair pro tempore, vice-chair. Also at this organizational meeting each freeholder is assigned as liaison to one or more departments of the county.
Five counties have a separately elected county executive (Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Mercer). A sixth county (Union) has a county executive that is appointed by the board, analogous to the council–manager municipal form of government. In these counties, the Board of Chosen Freeholders retains only legislative authority. Most of the rest of the counties also appoint a county supervisor/administrator who is responsible for routine administrative operations of the county government. New Jersey counties have powers that are intermediate between the broad powers of counties in Pennsylvania and the limited powers of counties in New York. Counties in New Jersey do not have tax collecting power.