Civil township

From Academic Kids

A civil township is a widely-used unit of local government in the United States, subordinate to a county. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary based on each state. Civil townships are distinct from survey townships, but in states that have both, the boundaries usually coincide. The U.S. Census Bureau classifies civil townships (misleadingly called "towns" in some states) as civil divisions.

Township functions are generally attended to by a governing board (the name varies from state to state) and a clerk. Township officers frequently include justice of the peace, road commissioner, assessor, constable, and surveyors. In the 20th century many townships also added a township administrator or supervisor to the officers as an executive for the board. In some cases townships run local libraries, senior citizen services, youth services, disabled citizen services, emergency assistance, and even cemetery services.


Midwestern, central and western states

Most western states have only survey townships, such that all local government outside of incorporated municipalities is performed at the county level.

In the Great Lakes states, civil townships are overlaid on the survey townships. The degree to which these townships are functioning governmental entities varies from state to state and in some cases even within a state. (In Illinois, for example, townships in the northern part of the state are active in providing public services, such as roads, whereas townships in southern Illinois frequently abandon these services in favor of the county.)

Civil townships in these states are generally not considered to be incorporated, and nearby cities may annex land in adjoining townships with relative ease. In Michigan, townships can incorporate as charter townships, a status intended to protect against annexation from nearby municipalities and which grants the township some home rule powers similar to cities. Wisconsin is also unique in that such regions are known as "towns" rather than townships, but they are essentially the same thing.

Northeastern states

In New England and New York, the principal forms of local government are the "town" and the city, although survey townships are used in unorganized portions of Maine. Residents of these states do not generally recognize the word "township" as applying to their local governments, though their "towns" are exactly the same as what a township is everywhere else, including the dictionary.

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the township is a unit of local government responsible for services such as local road and street maintenance outside of towns or boroughs. These states have strong county government, and their state constitutions prohibit special legislation. Townships were established based on convenient geographical boundaries and vary in size from six to forty square miles (10-74 kmē).

Southern states

In the South, outside of cities and towns there is generally no local government beyond the county. As these states were surveyed prior to the Northwest Ordinance, there are generally no survey townships, either, although there are in Alabama, as Alabama Territory was relatively late in being established.

North Carolina is an exception to this rule, and even the towns have townships due to extraterritorial jurisdiction. Numerous independent townships also exist, as every county is divided into townships as mandated since the North Carolina Constitution of 1868. Some urbanized counties such as Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) now number their townships (i.e. "Township 12") rather than using their real names. Townships all over the state used to have some official organization and duties, but now are only considered ceremonial divisions of each county, used on land surveys and other real estate documents.

See also

External links

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