Township (United States) - Civil Townships

Civil Townships

The township government is a local unit of government, originally rural in application. They are geographic and political subdivisions of a county. The township is identified by a name, such as Raritan Township, New Jersey. The responsibilities and the form of the township government is specified by the state legislature.

The most common form of township government has an elected board of trustees or supervisors. Some additional offices, such as Clerk or Constable, may also be elected. The most common responsibilities include such things as road maintenance, land use planning, and trash collection. Many townships in Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania provide police and fire protection, similar to what an incorporated city would provide.

In most midwestern states, a civil township often corresponds to a single survey township, but in many cases, especially in less populated areas, the civil township may be made up of all or portions of several survey townships. In areas where there are natural features such as a lakeshore or large river, the civil township boundaries may follow the geographic features rather than the survey township. Municipalities such as cities may incorporate or annex land in a township, which is then generally removed from township government. Only one state, Indiana, has township governments covering all its area and population. In other states, some types of municipalities like villages remain a part of the township while cities are not. As urban areas expand, a civil township may entirely disappear—see, for example, Mill Creek Township, Hamilton County, Ohio. In other expanding urban areas, the township may incorporate itself into a city; this can be seen in the numerous square cities of Hennepin, Anoka, and Washington Counties in Minnesota. The Montgomery County, Ohio cities of Trotwood (1996, formerly Madison Township), Huber Heights (1980, Wayne Township), and Kettering (1955, Van Buren Township) are further examples of townships incorporating into cities.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey are different; these states have civil townships that are not based on the PLSS survey system, but on the older Metes and bounds survey system. A New Jersey township differs only in name from other municipalities: its boundaries are fixed, it is an incorporated body, and it is free to adopt another form of government. The federal government has frequently failed to allow for federal funding unless they went under a different name, such as this; some New Jersey municipalities, such as the Township of the Borough of Verona or Township of South Orange Village, changed their names to qualify for additional federal aid.

Utah and Nevada have areas called townships, but they are not the same as civil townships. These areas are not separate governments, but have been granted some degree of self-rule by a county.

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