Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Ohio Township Day


Happy Ohio Township Day

(February 1)

 Have you hugged your Township Official Today?

This past week/weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Ohio Township Association Winter Conference and Trade Show – January 30 – February 2, 2013. I have to admit I never made it to the trade show, although I do understand there was a plethora of swag available (pens, pencils, rulers, calendars, etc).
History Lesson – Back in the day when what we now know as Ohio was the ‘wild west’ – townships were created.  The Land Ordinance of 1785 established survey townships. The federal government surveyors divided the territory into thirty-six square mile segments (six mile by six mile – although some of the townships in Ohio were only five miles in any direction). These segments became Ohio’s townships for governing purposes.  Every square inch of Ohio at one time was part of one of these townships. As villages, and later cities grew, some of the townships were absorbed into the municipalities and no longer exist as a separate governing unit. The townships were combined in a variety of ways to form counties.  Currently there are 88 counties in Ohio. According to the 2010 census there are over 1300 townships in the state. Some counties have many townships – for instance, Medina County has seventeen while others have only a few – Cuyahoga County, as an example, has only two remaining townships. 

Township as a Governing Unit – Townships tend to have three elected trustees and one elected fiscal officer acting as the governing authorities for the population. They (the townships) are creatures of statute and are limited in their governing ability to what is specifically permitted by the Ohio Revised Code. They can pass zoning regulations and have police, fire, cemeteries and road departments. Unlike municipalities – they do not tend to charge income tax on the residents and most of their operating funds come from property taxes. Zoned townships also have two appointed boards – the zoning commission (acting as the legislative branch of township government with regards to zoning issues) and the board of zoning appeals (acting as the judicial branch with regard to zoning issues).
Townships are a very approachable form of local government. Most are small to medium sized and have limited budgets. Trustees make themselves approachable and meetings are held often and are always open to the public. If you are a political junkie like me or are just curious, check out a meeting. They can be very entertaining and are always informative.
Ohio’s Population -  Almost half of Ohio’s population live in a township.
Township Association -  What impressed me about the Ohio Township Association (OTA) conference was the wealth of knowledge available for all of the attendees. Workshops were given on topics from ‘Why Personnel Policies Matter’ and ‘Handling Deeds & Unused [cemetery] Plots’ to ‘Hot Topics in Planning and Zoning’ and ‘Technology in Local Government’. 

Additionally, the conference offered a cooperative working atmosphere for people from various counties to hear and discuss problems they have with aspects of governing. On hand to assist were attorneys, accountants, state government officials as well as more experienced elected township officials and other people who may have already dealt with a similar problem. Personnel from the State were available to discuss changes in the Ohio Revised Code and how those changes will impact townships. The keynote speaker at Friday's lunch gave a very moving discussion  on effective spending and comparision of spending by local forms of government.  I enjoyed the event and hope in the future – I am able to attend more of these conferences.

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