Townships are grassroots, statutory governments that perform many of the basic services of local government. Those services include road maintenance and repair; police and fire protection; emergency response; solid waste disposal; maintaining parks and cemeteries; zoning; and more.
Townships are considered an efficient and effective form of government. Townships do not levy income or sales taxes and do not receive casino revenue. Their principal source of local revenue is the property tax, and yet, townships levy only about 6 percent of property taxes in Ohio.
Section 2, Article X of the Ohio Constitution provides for the election of township officials and grants them the power of local taxation. The four-year term of office for township officials is addressed in section 1, Article XVII of the Ohio Constitution.
Section 7, Article V of the Constitution addresses the process for placing candidates for township offices on the ballot. The limitations on revenue generated by property tax levies, expressly including those levied by townships, are addressed in section 2, Article XII.
Ohio Revised Code
The Ohio Revised Code is a collection of Ohio statutes and includes several provisions concerning townships and township officials — some that grant authority and some that contain restrictions. (This links to the online version of the Ohio Revised Code www.codes.ohio.gov.)
In fact, Title V of the Revised Code is titled “Townships.” There are 13 chapters in Title V that address townships. Those chapters include code guidelines for the following: original surveyed townships; general provisions; limited home-rule government; trustees; clerk; constables; memorial buildings, halls and parks; hospitals and joint hospital districts; lighting; cemeteries; township zoning; private sewage collection tiles; and merged townships.
There are a number of other titles and statutes in the Ohio Revised Code that townships frequently encounter. Tax levy law is set forth in Title 57, and many provisions pertinent to tax levies are found in Chapter 5705 of the Revised Code.
The Sunshine Law, which requires that public meetings be generally open to the public, is found in Section 121.22 of the Ohio Revised Code. Public records requirements are set forth in section 149.43. Many ethics law provisions are contained in Chapter 102 of the Revised Code, but some are in Title 29, which is the criminal code. If your township gets sued over a personal injury matter and you’re wondering whether some kind of immunity defense applies, your lawyer would be looking in Chapter 2744 of the Revised Code.
Federal Law and Townships
Federal law can also apply to townships. These include anti-discrimination provisions and the Americans with Disabilities Act, among others. If your township has employees, you may be subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. There are a number of federal agencies — such as the EPA — that enforce federal laws that occasionally impact townships.
As you can see, townships are directly impacted by many provisions of state and federal law. One should consult legal counsel to address matters impacting your township. While the Ohio Township Association provides legal information to its members, we are prohibited from giving legal advice about specific situations. A complete summary of the law applicable to townships is beyond the scope of this website.